The Evolution of Skill Use Within and Between Jobs
We develop a tractable general equilibrium model for understanding within- and between-occupation changes in skill use over time. We apply the model to skill-use measures from the third, fourth, and revised fourth editions of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and data from the 1960, 1970, and 1980 Censuses and March Current Population Surveys. We recover changes in skill productivity by exploiting between-occupation movements. Most importantly, finger-dexterity productivity grew rapidly while abstract-skill productivity lagged. We leverage these findings to estimate an inelastic relation between abstract and routine inputs and explain within-occupation shifts in skill use.
This research was funded in part under NSF grant SES-1851636. We gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions from participants in the NBER Personnel group. We are truly grateful to Pascual Restrepo for excellent suggestions and to David Dorn for two very helpful conversations. Nevertheless, we absolve them from responsibility for any errors remaining in the paper and the opinions expressed herein. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.