Urban work escalators have ceased operation | MIT News | MIT

2021-12-08 05:49:52 By : Mr. Jackie Joo

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The huge prosperity of the American economy after World War II is an urban phenomenon. Tens of millions of Americans flocked to cities to work and create the future among the middle class across the country. For decades, living in a big city has paid off.

By 1980, the household income of four-year college graduates in the top quarter of the urban job market was 40% higher than that of college graduates in the bottom quarter of the city. The hourly wage of workers in the same urban area without a four-year college degree ("non-university" workers) is 35% higher than that of rural workers.

But that is a different era. David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that the work landscape in the United States has undergone “significant changes” since 1980. He conducted a new study showing that How much work and income have been reduced. From 1990 to 2015, the wage advantage of a quarter of non-university workers in most cities in the United States was cut in half, with African-American and Latino workers being the most affected by this shift.

MIT Ford Professor of Economics Ottoor said: "In the past, [the city] attracted those who are unfortunate, escaped discrimination or underemployment, and acted as an upward mobility escalator." But today, he adds, "Urban workers without a college degree are turning to low-paying services rather than high-paying professional jobs. This is happening more often among blacks and Hispanics."

Even in the same location, blacks and Latinos are more affected by this transition. Since 1980, compared with non-university workers with the smallest urban job market, the wages of white workers without a college degree in the urban job market have risen slightly since 1980. But for black and Latino men and women who do not have a college degree in those places, the situation is just the opposite.

"The salary premium for non-college whites in the city has risen, but the salary premium for other people without a college degree has dropped," Ottoor said.

This stagnation in wages also helps explain why many workers without a college degree cannot afford to live in big cities. Yes, housing prices have soared, and cities have not produced enough new housing. However, Otto stated that “a change in wages alone is sufficient” to make most non-university workers leave the city.

Autor's new white paper "The Shaky Urban Opportunity Escalator" was released today in collaboration with the Economic Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute. In examining the hollowing out of middle-skilled jobs for the economic safety of non-university workers, the research also touched on the core theme of the MIT Future Work Task Force, which is the co-chair of Autor, an institute-wide project.

"For those without a college degree, the scope of financially secure occupations has shrunk," Ottor said. "This is a core labor market challenge that the working group focuses on: how do you ensure that people without elite education can get good jobs?"

In order to conduct this research, Otto used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and his own previous research on changes in the structure of the urban labor market in the United States.  

As Otto detailed in his report, in the United States and most industrialized countries, employment is increasingly concentrated in high-educated, high-paying occupations and low-educated, low-paying jobs, at the expense of the traditional medium The cost of income. Skilled occupation work. Economists call this phenomenon the "polarization" of employment. There are many reasons for this. Both automation and computerization have usurped many daily production and office tasks; in globalization, this has greatly reduced labor-intensive manufacturing jobs in high-wage countries. As the polarization intensifies, workers without a college degree are diverted from blue-collar production jobs, white-collar offices, and administrative jobs to service industries—such as food service, cleaning, security, transportation, maintenance, and low-paying nursing jobs.

In 1980, employment in the United States was roughly divided into three occupational categories: 33% of workers engaged in relatively low-paid physical and personal service jobs; 37% engaged in middle-income production, office, and sales occupations; 30% engaged in high-paying professional, Technical and management occupations. But by 2015, only 27% of the American workforce was in middle-income occupations.

This shift is mainly felt by workers who have not received university education. More specifically, in 1980, 39% of non-university workers were in low-income occupations, 43% in middle-income occupations, and 18% in high-income occupations. But by 2015, only 33% of non-university workers were in middle-income occupations, a change of 10%. About two-thirds of the changes have brought workers into traditionally lower-paying jobs that require less professional skills. As a result, these jobs provide fewer opportunities to acquire skills, increase productivity and salaries, and gain job stability and economic security.

As pointed out in the paper, an important finding of Otto's work is that this change is "completely concentrated in the urban labor market." In this study, Otto analyzed the 722 “commuting areas” (local labor market) defined by the U.S. Census from 1980 to 2015, and found that across the country, the wages of non-university urban workers with high school diplomas fell relatively It is 7 percentage points higher for similar companies in non-urban cities; for urban employees who have not graduated from high school, the decline is even greater, by 12 percentage points.

The jobs most affected are manufacturing and office clerical jobs, which have basically disappeared from the city. As Autor’s research shows, in 1980, these positions, as well as administrative and sales positions, accounted for a much larger share of urban employment than in non-urban areas. But by 2015, their share of employment in urban and non-urban areas will be roughly equal. Rural environment.

"For people with a lower level of education, the city has changed a lot," Ottor said. In the past, “non-college students are engaged in more professional jobs. They work in offices and factories together with professionals, and they [work] are not available outside the city."

Considering the demographic composition of cities throughout the United States, any major shift in urban employment will affect the African American and Latino population, Otto pointed out: "African Americans and Hispanics account for a large proportion of urban areas. Facts. In China, the Great Migration brought many African Americans from the South to the industrial cities of the North in search of better opportunities."

But as Autor's research shows, in the same place, African Americans and Latino Americans lose more advantages than whites with the same educational level. Take the top quarter of the labor market in most cities between 1980 and 2015 as an example. Among whites, blacks, and Latinos, by gender, the employment of non-college workers in middle-income jobs declined sharply during this period. But for white men and women, the decline in employment was slightly more than 7%, while for black men and women and Latino men and women, the decline was between 12% and 15%.

Or think about it: among workers who earned a four-year degree in the same urban environment between 1980 and 2015, the only group that saw a decline in relative wages was black. Ottor said that part of the reason may be that, as of 1980, even black middle-class men were more precarious than middle-class workers of other races and ethnicities.

"Compared with non-minority workers with the same education, the black middle class... is more focused on skilled blue-collar jobs, clerical and administrative work, and government services," Ottoor said.

Nevertheless, Otto added that the reasons for the relative decline may be deeply rooted in social dynamics: “In the United States, no racial group is more disproportionately unequal and unfairly treated than blacks.”

Although there is no simple solution to the prevailing social environment, Otto's paper does recommend setting a properly calibrated minimum wage in the city, which may eliminate some of the pay gap between whites and blacks.

"There is now a lot of evidence that raising the minimum wage is effective," Otto said. "They raised their wages without causing a lot of unemployment." In addition, he added, "The minimum wage has more impact on blacks than on whites.... This is not a revolutionary idea, but it It will help."

Otto emphasized that raising wages by raising the minimum wage is not a cost-free solution; in fact, costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, and a sharp increase may bankrupt low-productivity employers. Nonetheless, these trade-offs may be attractive given the declining earning capacity of workers who do not have a college degree in American cities (they make up the majority of workers).

Current research also shows that the affordability crisis in many cities is more than just a shortage of affordable housing. Although many scholars have criticized the urban housing policy for being too strict, Ottor believes that the problem is not just that workers without a four-year degree are being "driven" out of the city by prices; the decline in relative wages first means that the city does not have enough "pull". .

"Cities have become more expensive, and housing is not the only factor," Otto said. "For non-university workers, the net effect of changing wage structures and rising prices has made cities less attractive to people without a college degree." In addition, Otto added that the quality of work for non-university urban workers has declined. In a sense, it is a more difficult problem to solve. It is the labor market that has changed."

Autor will continue its research in this area, and will also work with other working group leaders-executive director Elisabeth B. Reynolds, who is also executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center, and co-chair David, to work on MIT’s Future Work Project A. Mindell, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stibner Professor of Engineering and Manufacturing at MIT, founder and CEO of Humatics Corporation.

The MIT working group will release a final report on this topic in September 2019. The report observes the economic polarization of the workforce, detailed technology trends affecting employment, and contains a number of policy recommendations to support the middle class The future-classwork.

"The Economist" focused on an article recently published by Professor David Otter and Elizabeth Reynolds, Executive Director of the MIT Future Work Task Force on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on work conditions. The Economist wrote: “If remote work proves to be a lasting shift, then cafe employees, taxi drivers and cleaners who depend on their habits may lose their jobs.”

Fast Company reporter Kristin Toussaint wrote about a new study by Professor David Autor, which found that middle-class jobs for non-college graduates are disappearing, especially black and Latino workers. Otto stated that raising the minimum wage was “surprisingly effective in increasing the incomes of low-wage workers”, adding that “they appear to have no obvious adverse effect on employment.”

The Washington Post's Andrew Van Dam reported that a study by Professor David Autor found that cities no longer guarantee medium wage opportunities for black and Latino workers. "Compared with whites, the occupational structure in cities has changed more and it can be said to be less popular among blacks and Hispanics," Ottoor said.

Bloomberg reporter Peter Coy wrote that a new study by Professor David Autor found that for people in middle-income jobs, especially black and Latino workers, cities are no longer "escalators of opportunity." Koy wrote that Ottor proposed, "One solution is to raise the minimum wage in the city, which will improve the living standards of low-income workers."

According to Reuters’ Jonnelle Marte, Professor David Autor found that opportunities for minority workers in cities have decreased, especially those without a college degree. "As the middlemen are hollowed out, (minority workers) have more exposure to middle-skilled jobs. In addition, their proportion at the low end is too high, while the proportion at the high end is not enough," Ottoor said .

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