Automation: A Guide for Policymakers. Brookings Institution. James Bessen et al. January 14, 2020.
Advancing technologies are increasingly able to fully or partially automate job tasks. These technologies range from robotics to machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, and are being adopted across many sectors of the economy. Applications range from selecting job applicants for interviewing, picking orders in a warehouse, interpreting X-rays to diagnose disease, and automated customer service. These developments have raised concern that workers are being displaced by advancing automation technology. Indeed, over 18 recent studies predict job losses from new automation technologies, including some predictions of massive job losses (Winick 2018). A large literature on worker displacement suggests that the effects of such developments could be dire: individual workers subject to plant closings and mass layoffs experience reduced employment probabilities and wage reductions, leading to long-term earnings losses, as well as reductions in consumption and worse health outcomes. Concerns about these effects of automation have led some commentators to call for policies to directly combat mass unemployment, such as a Universal Basic Income.
But is this right? At a time when many firms are investing in automation, the unemployment rate is at historic lows. Low unemployment might seem hard to reconcile with apocalyptic predictions about mass unemployment. This paper reviews the evidence from recent studies and reports on a new paper we have written, “Automatic Reaction: What happens to workers at firms that automate” (Bessen et al. 2019). This paper is the first to take a look at what actually happens to those workers. We build on some of the findings in order to draw the implications for policy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 17 pages].
Realism About Reskilling: Upgrading the Career Prospects of America’s Low-Wage Workers. Brookings Institution. Marcela Escobari, Ian Seyal, Michael Meaney. November 7, 2019.
Every person deserves the opportunity for dignified employment that provides living wages and potential for advancement. However, for many in America today, this is far from reality, as they are caught in a cycle of low-wage work, earning poverty wages and unable to move up in the economy.
Local leaders, firms, and workers need to adapt quickly to keep pace with rapid technological innovation and its transformative impact on the U.S. economy. Using reskilling as a focal point, this report aims to provide policymakers with tools to do so by answering the following questions:
- Who are the nation’s low-wage workers, and what are their prospects?
- Where are the local opportunities for mobility, and how can policymakers expand them and help low-wage workers transition?
How can the reskilling infrastructure adapt to the future, foster inclusion, and address the needs of any worker seeking upward mobility? [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 17 pages].
Employment, Education, and the Time Use of American Youth. Brookings Institution. Lauren Bauer et al. September 5, 2019
The labor force participation rate is a key measure of
economic health. While the decline in prime-age workers’ labor force
participation receives much attention from policymakers, it is far outpaced by
the decline in participation among younger workers. In this analysis we show
how changing employment and school enrollment patterns have contributed to
declining labor force participation among youth, aged 16 to 24. Youth today are
not disengaged; rather, declines in youth labor force participation primarily
reflect a long-term but accelerating shift toward schooling and spending more
time on education-related activities. [Note: contains copyrighted
[PDF format, 26 pages].
Developing a National Recruiting Difficulty Index. RAND Corporation. Jeffrey B. Wenger et al. March 13, 2019
The U.S. Army recognizes that the recruiting environment has
a significant impact on its ability to recruit. This report presents a
forecasting model that measures recruiting difficulty to forecast a difficult
or easy recruiting environment. [Note: contains copyrighted
[PDF format, 136 pages].
The Changing Role of Energy in the U.S. Economy. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Sarah Ladislaw et al. January 28, 2019
Speakers from this Energy in America workshop discuss the role of energy in the U.S. economy at the national, regional, and local levels focused on economic impacts—including labor effects, economic distortions, and social mobility. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, several articles].
Labor Market Considerations for a National Job Guarantee. Brookings Institution. Ryan Nunn, Jimmy O’Donnell, and Jay Shambaugh. December 6, 2018
Despite a relatively strong U.S. economy in late 2018, many workers continue to experience stagnant wages and underemployment. In response, policy interventions like subsidized wages, training and search assistance, expanded public employment, and federal guarantees of employment have all been proposed, but relatively little is known about how a federal job guarantee would function. The authors therefore discuss a number of relevant labor market considerations: How many people are likely to participate in a job guarantee? What types of work and nonwork activities are the eligible population currently engaged in? What types of work would program participants do? Can we expect workers to be well matched with their employers? Are there unintended consequences of the program for participants or nonparticipants? The authors conclude that, while a job guarantee could lift employment rates and incomes for many participants, there is considerable uncertainty associated with its impacts. In particular, a potentially very large but unknown fraction of workers currently earning low wages—as well as those outside the labor force—would take up a job guarantee, meaning that it could affect far more workers than are currently unemployed or underemployed. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 37 pages].
Pathways to High-Quality Jobs for Young Adults. Brookings Institution. Martha Ross et al. October, 2018
Helping young people prepare to engage in work and life as productive adults is a central challenge for any society. Yet, many young people in the United States—particularly those from low-income or less educated families—find that the path to employment and economic security in adulthood is poorly marked or inaccessible.
Using an advanced methodology and longitudinal data, this report examines two main questions:
- The quality of jobs (as measured by wages, benefits, hours, and job satisfaction) held by 29-year-olds who experienced disadvantage in adolescence
- Whether particular employment, education, and training experiences in adolescence and early adulthood predict higher-quality jobs for 29-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.
[Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 56 pages].