Abstract: We investigate the impact of computerization of white-collar jobs on wages and employment. Using online job postings from 2007 and 2010–2016 for office and administrative support (OAS) jobs, we show that when firms adopt new software at the job-title level they increase the skills required of job applicants. Furthermore, firms change the task content of such jobs, broadening them to include tasks associated with higher-skill office functions. We aggregate these patterns to the local labor-market level, instrumenting for local technology adoption with national measures. We find that a 1 standard deviation increase in OAS technology usage reduces employment in OAS occupations by about 1 percentage point and increases wages for college graduates in OAS jobs by over 3 percent. We find negative wage spillovers, with wages falling for both workers with and without a college degree. These results are consistent with technological adoption inducing a realignment in task assignment across occupations, leading office support occupations to become higher skill. We argue relative wage gains for OAS workers indicates that factor-augmenting features of OAS technological change dominate task-substituting features. In addition, while we find that total employment increases, these gains primarily accrue to college-educated women.
Upjohn Institute working paper: 19-310, NBER Working Paper 29866
U of I News Bureau: “Paper: Economy benefits when secretarial jobs require more computer skills” (December 2019)