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.

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