Wednesday, April 7, 2021 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM
Dr. Leah Boustan, Princeton University
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Seminars will be held virtually from 12 - 1:15pm over Zoom. Each presentation will be followed by an informal discussion (students welcome) from 1:15 - 2pm.
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Presentation: Presentation: Automation before robots: Machine tools and the US labor market
Abstract: Successive innovations in manufacturing have enabled machines to perform an increasing number of tasks formerly performed by workers. We investigate how the diffusion of one of the most important of these innovations – numerically controlled (NC) machine tools – affected the skill mix of metal manufacturing industries from 1973 and 2009. NC was originally invented in the United States in the late 1950s, but its widespread diffusion in the 1970s was driven by cost-reducing innovations in Japan and Germany. The timing of diffusion varied by type of tool: for example, lathes shifted to NC early and mechanical presses did so later. We construct a measure of NC diffusion using detailed information on the mix of machine tool types used in seven metal industries and the NC share of each tool types by leading exporters. We find that exposure to our NC diffusion measure led to the polarization of skills and job tasks, with greater relative demand for high school dropouts and college graduates. The unionized sector had more muted responses. Affected workers responded by going back to two- and four-year colleges.