Long-term studies of US census data show that most jobs are new jobs. MIT News

Posted by

This is part 1 of two MIT News Feature examining new job creation in America since 1940, based on new research by David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics. Part 2 is available here.

In 1900, Orville and Wilbur Wright listed their occupations as “Merchant, Bicycle” on US census forms. Three years later, he made his famous first aerial flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. So, in the next US census, in 1910, both brothers called themselves “inventors, airplanes.” However, there were not many around at the time, and it was not until the 1950s that “airplane designer” became a recognized census category.

Whatever their specific case, the Wright brothers’ story tells us something important about employment in America today. As US Census forms reveal, most work in America is new work. Most jobs are in occupations that have grown widely since the 1940s, according to a major new study of American jobs led by MIT economist David Autor.

“We estimate that about six out of 10 jobs that people currently hold did not exist in 1940,” says Autor, co-author of a newly published paper detailing the results. “A lot of the things we do today, no one was doing at the time. Most contemporary jobs require expertise that did not exist, and was not relevant, at the time.”

The finding, covering the period from 1940 to 2018, poses some big implications. For one thing, many new jobs are created by technology. But not all: some come from consumer demand, such as health care services and jobs for a growing population.

On another front, research shows a notable split in recent new job creation: During the first 40 years of the 1940–2018 period, many new jobs were middle-class manufacturing and clerical jobs, but over the last 40 years, new job creation Often involves either highly paid professional work or low-paid service work.

Finally, the study brings new data to bear on an intriguing question: To what extent does technology create new jobs, and to what extent does it replace jobs?

paper, “New Frontiers: The Origins and Content of New Work, 1940-2018,” appears in Quarterly Journal of Economics, Co-authors are Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT; Caroline Chin, a PhD student in economics at MIT; Anna Salomons, Professor at the School of Economics at Utrecht University; and Brian Seegmiller SM ’20, PhD ’22, assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Northwestern University.

“This is the hardest, most intensive project I have ever undertaken in my research career,” says Autor. “I think we’ve made progress on things we didn’t know we could make progress on.”

“Technician, nails”

To conduct the study, scholars dug deep into government data about jobs and patents using natural language processing techniques, which identified corresponding details in patents and census data to link innovations and subsequent job creation. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps track of evolving job descriptions provided by respondents – such as the one the Wright brothers wrote. Each decade’s employment index lists approximately 35,000 occupations and their 15,000 distinct types.

Many new businesses are the direct result of new technologies creating new forms of work. For example, “computer applications engineer” was first codified in 1970, “circuit layout designer” in 1990, and “solar photovoltaic electrician” made its debut in 2018.

“Many, many forms of expertise are actually specific to a technology or service,” says Autor. “It’s a big deal quantitatively.”

He says: “When we rebuild the electrical grid, we are going to create new occupations – not just electricians, but solar equivalents, that is, solar electricians. Eventually it becomes a specialty. The first objective of our study is to measure [this kind of process], The second is to show what it reacts to and how it occurs; And the third is to show what impact automation has on employment.”

However, on the second point, innovation is not the only way for new jobs to emerge. Consumers’ wants and needs also generate new businesses. As the paper notes, “Tattooers” became a US Census job category in 1950, “Hypnotherapists” were codified in 1980, and “Conference planners” were codified in 1990. Furthermore, the date of U.S. Census Bureau codification is not the first time someone has served in those roles; This is the point when enough people had jobs and the Bureau recognized work as an important employment category. For example, “technician, nails” became a category in 2000.

“It’s not just the technology that creates new work, it’s also the new demand,” Autor says. The aging population of Baby Boomers is creating new roles for personal health care assistants that are only now emerging as appreciable job categories.

All told, among “professionals,” essentially typical white-collar workers, about 74 percent of jobs in the sector have been created since 1940. In the category of “health services” – the personal services side of health care, including general health aides, occupational medical assistants, and more – about 85 percent of the jobs have emerged at the same time. In contrast, in the manufacturing sector the figure is only 46 percent.

difference according to degree

The fact that there are relatively more new jobs available in some areas of employment than in others has been one of the key features of the American jobs landscape over the past 80 years. And in terms of jobs, one of the most surprising things about that time period is that it consists of two completely different 40-year periods.

In the first 40 years, from 1940 to 1980, America became a singular postwar manufacturing superpower, manufacturing jobs grew, and middle-income clerical and other office jobs grew around those industries.

But over the past four decades, manufacturing in America began to decline and automation began to eliminate clerical work. From the 1980s to the present, there have been two major tracks for new jobs: high-level and specialized professional work, and a variety of low-paying service-sector jobs. As the authors write in the paper, the US has seen an “overall polarization of the occupational structure.”

It matches the level of education. Studies show that workers with at least some college experience are about 25 percent more likely to work in new businesses than those who have less than a high school diploma.

“The real concern is who the new work is created for,” says Autor. “In the first period, from 1940 to 1980, there were a lot of jobs being filled for people without college degrees, a lot of clerical work and production jobs, middle-skill jobs. In the later period, it has become divided, with the new jobs for college graduates becoming more and more in professions, and the new jobs for non-college graduates becoming more and more in services.

Still, Autor says, “It could change a lot. We are in a time of potentially consequential technological change.

At present, it is unclear how and to what extent developing technologies such as artificial intelligence will impact the workplace. However, this is also a major issue in current research studies: how much does the new technology increase employment by creating new work and viable jobs, and how much does the new technology replace existing jobs through automation? In their paper, Autor and his colleagues draw new findings on that topic, which are outlined in Part 2 of MIT News series.

Support for the research was provided, in part, by the Carnegie Corporation; Google; Institut GAC; MIT’s work on the future task force; Schmidt Futures; Smith Richardson Foundation; and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

#Longterm #studies #census #data #show #jobs #jobs #MIT #News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *