The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market Implications for Employment and Earnings

Source: David Autor, jointly released by the Hamilton Project and the Center for American Progress, April 2010

From the summary:
History suggests that employment will rise again in the United States, but in the recovery we will have to contend with the reality that there has been a sharp rise in wage inequality in recent decades and a declining number of middle-skill jobs.

Fast facts:
* U.S. employment growth is polarizing, with job opportunities increasingly concentrated in relatively high-skill, high-wage jobs and low-skill, low wage jobs.
* Employment polarization is not a uniquely American phenomenon; it is widespread across industrialized economies.
* Key contributors to job polarization are the automation of routine work and, to a lesser extent, the international integration of labor markets through trade and, more recently, offshoring. The declining penetration of labor unions and the falling real value of the federal minimum wage have played a smaller role.
* The Great Recession quantitatively but not qualitatively changed the trend toward employment polarization in the U.S. labor market. Employment losses during the recent recession were far more severe in middle-skill white- and blue-collar jobs than in either high-skill, white-collar jobs or in low-skill service occupations.
* The earnings of college-educated workers relative to high school-educated workers have risen steadily for almost three decades.
* The rise in the relative earnings of college graduates is due both to rising real earnings for college-educated workers and falling real earnings for noncollege-educated workers, particularly noncollege-educated males.
* Gains in educational attainment have not generally kept pace with rising educational returns, particularly for males. And the slowing pace of educational attainment has contributed to the rising college/high school earnings gap.
See also:
Executive Summary
other works by David Autor

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