Do Computers Reduce the Value of Worker Persistence?
47 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018 Last revised: 11 Apr 2022
Date Written: March 4, 2021
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
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