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The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market


Autor, David H; Dorn, David (2013). The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market. American Economic Review, 103(5):1553-1597.

Abstract

We offer a unified analysis of the growth of low-skill service occupations between 1980 and 2005 and the concurrent polarization of US employment and wages. We hypothesize that polarization stems from the interaction between consumer preferences, which favor variety over specialization, and the falling cost of automating routine, codifiable job tasks. Applying a spatial equilibrium model, we corroborate four implications of this hypothesis. Local labor markets that specialized in routine tasks differentially adopted information technology, reallocated low-skill labor into service occupations (employment polarization), experienced earnings growth at the tails of the distribution (wage polarization), and received inflows of skilled labor.

Abstract

We offer a unified analysis of the growth of low-skill service occupations between 1980 and 2005 and the concurrent polarization of US employment and wages. We hypothesize that polarization stems from the interaction between consumer preferences, which favor variety over specialization, and the falling cost of automating routine, codifiable job tasks. Applying a spatial equilibrium model, we corroborate four implications of this hypothesis. Local labor markets that specialized in routine tasks differentially adopted information technology, reallocated low-skill labor into service occupations (employment polarization), experienced earnings growth at the tails of the distribution (wage polarization), and received inflows of skilled labor.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:09 Oct 2014 12:09
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 07:30
Publisher:American Economic Association
ISSN:0002-8282
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.5.1553

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