Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000
We develop a new methodology for quantifying the tasks undertaken within occupations using over 3,000 verbs from more than 12,000 occupational descriptions in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOTs). Using micro-data from the United States from 1880-2000, we find an increase in the employment share of interactive occupations within sectors over time that is larger in metro areas than non-metro areas. We interpret these findings using a model in which reductions in transport and communication costs induce urban areas to specialize according to their comparative advantage in interactive tasks. We presenting suggestive evidence relating increases in employment in interactive occupations to improvements in transport and communication technologies. Our findings highlight a change in the nature of agglomeration over time towards an increased emphasis on human interaction.
Previously circulated as "Tasks and Technology in the United States 1880-2000." We are grateful to the Centre for Economic Performance and Princeton University for research support. We are also grateful to Gilles Duranton and Matt Turner for sharing data. We thank William D. Caughlin and George Kupczak for their help with data. We also thank the editor, four referees, Don Davis, Gilles Duranton, Gene Grossman, Gordon Hanson, Marco Manacorda, Alan Manning, Nathan Nunn, Vernon Henderson, Rick Hornbeck, Gianmarco Ottaviano, Steve Pischke, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, Yona Rubinstein, Will Strange, Nancy Qian, Tony Venables and seminar and conference participants at Copenhagen, the London School of Economics, MIT, NARSC, Oxford, Sorbonne and Sussex for helpful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
TASK SPECIALIZATION IN U.S. CITIES FROM 1880–2000 Guy Michaels London School of Economics Ferdinand Rauch University of Oxford Stephen J. Redding Princeton University and NBER, Journal of the European Economic Association Preprint prepared on 18 January 2018 using jeea.cls v1.0 citation courtesy of