Do Computers Reduce the Value of Worker Persistence?

47 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018 Last revised: 11 Apr 2022

See all articles by Erik Brynjolfsson

Erik Brynjolfsson

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Stanford

Meng Liu

Washington University in St. Louis

George F. Westerman

MIT Sloan School of Management

Date Written: March 4, 2021

Abstract

Worker persistence – the ability to focus on a task for long periods of time – is often highlighted as essential to success. However, computers are extraordinarily persistent, particularly for routine, repetitive work. This potentially reduces the value of human persistence in occupations that are computerized. Using a well-defined measure of worker persistence across a nationally-representative 16-year sample of 4,239 individuals, we investigate the extent to which occupations value worker persistence in the presence of computers. We find that the labor market does indeed value persistence. Nonetheless, we find that in routine jobs, the wage premium of human persistence diminishes with the degree of workplace computerization. Yet, this substitution does not occur in non-routine jobs. These findings have important theoretical, policy, and managerial implications for the future of work and workers.

Keywords: workplace computerization, routine-biased technological change, persistence, wage premium, grit, labor economics

Suggested Citation

Brynjolfsson, Erik and Liu, Meng and Westerman, George F., Do Computers Reduce the Value of Worker Persistence? (March 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3286084 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3286084

Erik Brynjolfsson

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stanford ( email )

366 Galvez St
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://brynjolfsson.com

Meng Liu (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States

George F. Westerman

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

245 First Street, E94-1513
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-2939 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
222
Abstract Views
1,598
rank
192,112
PlumX Metrics