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Adapting to Workplace Technological Change over the Long Run: Evidence from US Longitudinal Data

last modified Sep 10, 2015 02:49 PM
Miguel Morin, Faculty of Economics

When an occupation becomes obsolete because of technology adoption, what happens to workers? We matched individuals across time from historical records of the Census of Population for 1920-1930 to document the labor market outcomes of workers displaced by electrical machinery in respect to employment status and occupational change. We use the geography of hydro-electric development, which is highly heterogeneous across US regions, as an instrument for the endogenous adoption of electricity. Preliminary results suggest that the adoption of electricity over 1920-1930 caused occupational change, especially among laborers, and that these workers found a higher-paying job in the wake of electrification. Work-in-progress is examining the long-run effect over 1900-1940, the effect on skill transferability (using task measures from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles), and heterogeneous effects depending on education, age, and local economic conditions.