New Frontiers: The Evolving Content of New Work in the 20th Century

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 31.03.2020, 12:00 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Anna Salomons (Utrecht University)




Recent theory stresses the importance of new job types (‘new work’) that emerge as automation subsumes existing labor tasks. Comprehensive and representative empirical evidence on this phenomenon is lacking, however. We construct a century-long inventory of new job titles linked to United States Census microdata and explore the emergence and evolution of new work—including its task content, skill demands, and wage levels. Comparing new to existing work, our descriptive analysis detects sharp shifts across decades in the task content of new work and the education, wage levels and geography of those who perform it. In the first four post-War decades, new work emerges disproportionately in production, office work, sales, and professional specialties. Conversely, new work creation since 1980 has been increasingly concentrated in high-education specialties and, to a lesser degree, in low-education personal services and manual occupations. In both eras, new work emerges disproportionately in occupational categories where existing work is growing. Leveraging these observations, we offer a high-level hypothesis for the sources of new work creation and discuss how our ongoing research seeks to evaluate this hypothesis.

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