Skillsets, Coordinative Capabilities, and Employment Outcomes in the Us Civil Service

Joshua R. Bruce (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Abstract : When and why are some skillsets more valuable than others? This paper addresses the role of skillsets as bundles of coordinative capabilities in the US civil service. Building on recent advances in personnel economics and studies of knowledge in team performance, this paper theorizes the role of skillsets in employment outcomes by stressing the value to employers of employees best suited to coordination roles in their organizations. A novel method for skillset identification is introduced, leveraging the availability of job documentation and natural language processing software. After identifying employees’ skillsets and skill-based linkages among coworkers, panel regression models of 2.7 million person-year records, covering a subset of federal employees between 1979 and 2014, indicate that civil servants best positioned to coordinate workplace tasks are more highly compensated. Furthermore, this effect is found to depend in part on the complexity of the organization in which civil servants work. As organizational complexity (i.e., need for coordinative capabilities) increases, so too does the magnitude of later salary growth. Limitations of the analysis are discussed, as well as future directions for research on the nature of work, employment, mobility, and organizational performance.

Computerization of White Collar Jobs

Marcus Dillender (W.E. Upjohn Institute)
Eliza Forsythe (University of Illinois)

Abstract : We investigate the impact of computerization of white collar jobs on jobs, 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. Further, firms change the task content of such jobs, broadening them to include tasks associated with higher-skill office functions. We then aggregate these patterns to the local labor market level, instrumenting for local technology adoption with national measures. We find a one standard deviation increase in OAS technology usage reduces employment in OAS occupations by about one 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 non-college and college graduates. These losses are in part driven by high-skill office occupations. These results are consistent with technological adoption inducing a realignment in task assignment across occupations, leading office support occupations to become higher-skill and less at risk from further automation. In addition, we find total employment increases with computerization, despite the direct job losses in OAS employment.

Female Inventors and Inventions

Rembrand Koning (Harvard Business School)
Sampsa Samila (IESE)
John-Paul Ferguson (McGill University)

Abstract : Has the increase in female medical researchers led to more medical advances for women? In this paper, we investigate if the gender of inventors shapes their types of inventions. Using data on the universe of US biomedical patents, we find that patents with women inventors are significantly more likely to focus on female diseases and conditions. Consistent with the idea of women researchers choosing to innovate for women, we find stronger effects when the lead inventor on the patent is a woman. Women-led research teams are 26 percent more likely to focus on female health outcomes. This link between the gender focus of the scientist and the type of invention, in combination with the rise of women inventors, appears to have influenced the direction of innovation over the last four decades. Our findings suggest that the demography of inventors matters not just for who invents but also for what is invented.