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Working Papers, No. 2024-01, February 2024 Crossref
Occupational Switching During the Second Industrial Revolution

During the Second Industrial Revolution, in the late nineteenth century, the proliferation of automation technologies coincided with substantial job creation but also a “hollowing out” of middle-skilled job opportunities, which historically offered reliable paths to prosperity. We use recently linked U.S. census data to document three main facts: (i) declining demand for middle-skilled labor in manufacturing corresponded to greater reallocation of workers into comparatively less-skilled occupations; (ii) older workers were more likely to switch to unskilled physical labor; (iii) younger workers led switching into growing occupations affected by automation technologies.

Working papers are not edited, and all opinions and errors are the responsibility of the author(s). The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.

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