Technological Changes and Employment of Older Manufacturing Workers in Early Twentieth Century America

Chulhee Lee

NBER Working Paper No. 14746
Issued in February 2009
NBER Program(s):   AG   DAE

This study explores how technological, organizational, and managerial changes affected the labor-market status of older male manufacturing workers in early twentieth century America. Industrial characteristics that were favorably related to the labor-market status of older industrial workers include: higher labor productivity, less capital- and material-intensive production, a shorter workday, lower intensity of work, greater job flexibility, and more formalized employment relationship. Technical innovations that improved productivity often negatively affected the quality of the work environment of older workers. These results suggest that the technological transformations in the Industrial Era brought mixed consequences to the labor-market status of older workers. On one hand, technical and organizational modifications improved the elderly workers' employment prospect by raising labor productivity, diminishing hours of work, and formalizing employment relations. On the other hand, some types of technical innovations, which are characterized by additional requirements for physical strength, mental agility, and ability to acquire new skills, forced older workers out of their jobs. Since the pace and nature of technical change considerably differed across industries, and possibly across firms within the same industry, the labor-market experiences of individual older workers should have been highly heterogeneous.

download in pdf format
   (319 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (319 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14746

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Engel w5312 The Forward Discount Anomaly and the Risk Premium: A Survey of Recent Evidence
Friedberg w8297 The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers: Evidence from Data on Computer Use
Garber and Svensson w4971 The Operation and Collapse of Fixed Exchange Rate Regimes
Dehejia and Lleras-Muney w9551 Why Does Financial Development Matter? The United States from 1900 to 1940
Barro w5326 Inflation and Economic Growth
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us