Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/36224
Authors: 
Autor, David H.
Dorn, David
Year of Publication: 
2009
Series/Report no.: 
IZA Discussion Papers 4290
Abstract: 
After a decade in which wages and employment fell precipitously in low-skill occupations and expanded in high-skill occupations, the shape of U.S. earnings and job growth sharply polarized in the 1990s. Employment shares and relative earnings rose in both low and high-skill jobs, leading to a distinct U-shaped relationship between skill levels and employment and wage growth. This paper analyzes the sources of the changing shape of the lower-tail of the U.S. wage and employment distributions. A first contribution is to document a hitherto unknown fact: the twisting of the lower tail is substantially accounted for by a single proximate cause - rising employment and wages in low-education, in-person service occupations. We study the determinants of this rise at the level of local labor markets over the period of 1950 through 2005. Our approach is rooted in a model of changing task specialization in which routine clerical and production tasks are displaced by automation. We find that in labor markets that were initially specialized in routine-intensive occupations, employment and wages polarized after 1980, with growing employment and earnings in both high-skill occupations and low-skill service jobs.
Subjects: 
Skill demand
job tasks
inequality
polarization
technological change
occupational choice
JEL: 
E24
J24
J31
J62
O33
Persistent Identifier of the first edition: 
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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