David Autor and the polarization of labor market outcomes

by on March 6, 2011 at 11:35 am in Economics | Permalink

I was just going to write a post about David Autor as the "weighted average of most important yet most neglected economist for the blogosphere," or something like that.  Yet Paul Krugman just did essentially that.  In my view it is one of Krugman's best posts.

This may sound strange, but to think through these issues I spend some time playing chess against a computer, and also allied with a computer.  It beats me, but I learn a lot from the experience and I'll be reporting on that.  

By the way, there is quite a bit from Autor which Krugman didn't cover, you can pursue the material here on Autor's home page, start with the May 2010 CAP paper as the most accessible introduction.

Bill March 6, 2011 at 8:52 am

This is a better post than the previous one focusing on the median male wage without decomposing the median and showing what segments of the male population are gaining and what segments are losing.

In fact, what this paper (May 2010 CAP) does is give you some idea of what policies need to be undertaken in order to both increase value of the workforce and to match it to the future demand.

It will not please some people because it involves gov'mnt.

Here are some conclusions:

First, encouraging more young adults to obtain higher education

would have multiple benefits. Many jobs are being created

that demand college-educated workers, so this will boost

incomes. Additionally, an increased supply of college graduates

should eventually help to drive down the college wage

premium and limit the rise in inequality.

Second, the United States should foster improvements in

K-12 education so that more people will be prepared to go

on to higher education. Indeed, one potential explanation

for the lagging college attainment of males is that K-12 education

is not adequately preparing enough men to see that

as a realistic option.

Third, educators and policymakeres should consider training

programs to boost skill levels and earnings opportunities in

historically low-skilled service jobs—and more broadly, to

offer programs for supporting continual learning, retraining,

and mobility for all workers.

Finally, another potential policy response is to consider R&D

and infrastructure investments that will have broadly distributed

benefits across the economy. Examples might include

expanding job opportunities in energy, the environment,

and health care. The return of the classic manufacturing job

as a path to a middle-class life is unlikely. But it may be that

various service jobs grow into attractive job opportunities,

with the appropriate complementary investments in training,

technology, and physical capital. Perhaps these could be the

shadows of what is yet to come.

njb March 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

Autor recently released a working paper with two co-authors on the labor market effects of increased Chinese imports. Mike Konczal did a good job of summarizing the paper here:
http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/david-a

Unfortunately, the text of the working paper seems to be unavailable at this point.

Zach March 8, 2011 at 7:49 am

"This may sound strange, but to think through these issues I spend some time playing chess against a computer, and also allied with a computer. It beats me, but I learn a lot from the experience and I'll be reporting on that."

How are you playing chess allied with a computer?

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