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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Autor Discovers the Rebirth of Middle Skill Jobs

David Autor Discovers the Rebirth of Middle Skill Jobs

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Sunday, 24 August 2014 07:56

Neil Irwin had a write-up of new research by M.I.T. economist David Autor explaining why the development of technology need not lead to a further growth in wage inequality. Autor's new work is especially noteworthy because Autor had previously been associated with the occupational polarization view that held that technology and globalization were wiping out middle wage jobs. This view was widely held up by the punditry as the major cause of wage inequality.

In Autor's paper, he concedes that the job polarization pattern he identified as having taken place in the 1980s and 1990s had stopped in the period since 2000. In fact, the bulk of the job creation since then has been at the bottom end of the occupational distribution with middle wage and high wage occupations mostly falling as a share of the workforce.

In this way, the paper is agreeing with the paper by Larry Mishel, John Schmitt, and Heidi Sheirholz, which showed there was no link between the patterns of job polarization identified by Autor in earlier work and the trends in wage inequality over the last three decades. (Autor was the discussant on this paper when it was presented at the American Economic Association convention in 2013, although he does not cite it in his new paper.)

 

Note: This post is a correction from an earlier version which cited an old column from David Autor and David Dorn rather than the piece by Irwin.

Further note: Adam Davidson had a piece last year on the exchange between Larry Mishel and David Autor.

Comments (2)Add Comment
How is this a "rebirth"?
written by Sandwichman, August 24, 2014 9:01
"the bulk of the job creation since then has been at the bottom end of the occupational distribution with middle wage and high wage occupations mostly falling as a share of the workforce"

Is the point then that polarization isn't happening because there is not much action at the upper pole? I don't get how a falling share of the workforce constitutes a "rebirth."
One word:
written by Dave, August 24, 2014 12:03
Globalization.

Ok, a couple more words: capital accumulation.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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