Automation and Human Capital Adjustment: The Effect of Robots on College Enrollment

60 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 30 Aug 2023

See all articles by Giuseppe Di Giacomo

Giuseppe Di Giacomo

University of Lugano

Benjamin Lerch

University of Lugano - Faculty of Economics

Date Written: June 2, 2021

Abstract

This paper analyzes the link between automation and education by investigating the impact of the introduction of industrial robots on college enrollment in the US. We exploit exogenous variation in the adoption of robots across US local labor markets between 1993 and 2007 and show that for every additional robot adopted four individuals enroll in college. This result is driven by rising enrollment rates in local community colleges. We also observe a shift in graduations towards more applied fields, such as computer science and engineering. Finally, we investigate the mechanism through which robot exposure increases college enrollment and show that individuals are more likely to invest in additional human capital due to lower opportunity costs of college enrollment in their labor market of residence, rather than due to a rising college wage premium.

Keywords: automation, industrial robots, human capital, college enrollment, major choice

JEL Classification: I23, I29, J23, J24

Suggested Citation

Di Giacomo, Giuseppe and Lerch, Benjamin, Automation and Human Capital Adjustment: The Effect of Robots on College Enrollment (June 2, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3920935 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3920935

Giuseppe Di Giacomo (Contact Author)

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, TN Ticino 6900
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/view/giuseppedigiacomo/home

Benjamin Lerch

University of Lugano - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
CH-6900 Lugano, CH-6904
Switzerland

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