How Did Computerization Since the 1980s Affect Older Workers?

IB#19-19

The brief’s key findings are:

  • Since the 1980s, computers have reshaped the job market, replacing workers in jobs that rely on routine tasks, from bank tellers to auto workers.
  • In response, workers moved to two types of non-routine jobs beyond the reach of computers: cognitive (e.g., analysts) and physical (e.g., food servers).
  • Older workers have fared like all other workers because, overall, they were just as likely to be in the routine jobs that were disrupted.
  • They also moved into non-routine jobs at similar rates, as the abilities needed for these jobs, such as a college degree or people skills, did not vary much by age.
  • A subsequent study will explore whether, over the next two decades, increasingly capable computers might favor jobs that do rely on skills that vary by age.