Work of the Past, Work of the Future

49 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2019

See all articles by David H. Autor

David H. Autor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: February 2019

Abstract

Labor markets in U.S. cities today are vastly more educated and skill-intensive than they were five decades ago. Yet, urban non-college workers perform substantially less skilled work than decades earlier. This deskilling reflects the joint effects of automation and international trade, which have eliminated the bulk of non-college production, administrative support, and clerical jobs, yielding a disproportionate polarization of urban labor markets. The unwinding of the urban non-college occupational skill gradient has, I argue, abetted a secular fall in real non-college wages by: (1) shunting non-college workers out of specialized middle-skill occupations into low-wage occupations that require only generic skills; (2) diminishing the set of non-college workers that hold middle-skill jobs in high-wage cities; and (3) attenuating, to a startling degree, the steep urban wage premium for non-college workers that prevailed in earlier decades. Changes in the nature of work—many of which are technological in origin—have been more disruptive and less beneficial for non-college than college workers.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Autor, David H., Work of the Past, Work of the Future (February 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25588. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3341248

David H. Autor (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-371
Cambridge, MA 02142-1347
United States
617-258-7698 (Phone)
617-253-1330 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/dautor/www

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
24
Abstract Views
164
PlumX Metrics