Automation Caused More than Half America’s Income Inequality Since 1980, Study Claims – Slashdot

A newly published study co-authored by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu “quantifies the extent to which automation has contributed to income inequality in the U.S.,” reports SciTechDaily, “simply by replacing workers with technology — whether self-checkout machines, call-center systems, assembly-line technology, or other devices.”

Over the last four decades, the income gap between more- and less-educated workers has grown significantly; the study finds that automation accounts for more than half of that increase. “This single one variable … explains 50 to 70 percent of the changes or variation between group inequality from 1980 to about 2016,” Acemoglu says….

Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, an assistant professor of economics at Boston University, used U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics on the extent to which human labor was used in 49 industries from 1987 to 2016, as well as data on machinery and software adopted in that time. The scholars also used data they had previously compiled about the adoption of robots in the U.S. from 1993 to 2014. In previous studies, Acemoglu and Restrepo have found that robots have by themselves replaced a substantial number of workers in the U.S., helped some firms dominate their industries, and contributed to inequality.
At the same time, the scholars used U.S. Census Bureau metrics, including its American Community Survey data, to track worker outcomes during this time for roughly 500 demographic subgroups… By examining the links between changes in business practices alongside changes in labor market outcomes, the study can estimate what impact automation has had on workers.

Ultimately, Acemoglu and Restrepo conclude that the effects have been profound. Since 1980, for instance, they estimate that automation has reduced the wages of men without a high school degree by 8.8 percent and women without a high school degree by 2.3 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for sharing the article.

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