Reading List: Technologies and Employment

August 5, 2014

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has compiled a reading list for those interested in topics related to Big Data and data-driven innovation. This list includes articles from newspapers, magazines, websites, and academic journals. Many of the more notable articles are annotated.

The reading list is divided into 13 sections. (Read the full list here.)


The section below includes items offering an overview of various technologies and their impact on employment. To add to the list, email

Technologies and Employment


Atkinson, R. and Miller, B. (2013) “Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?”, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation September.

This piece argues that rising productivity and automation thanks to smart technologies will not lead to lower employment. The “neo-Luddite” narrative wrongly assumes that there is a limited amount of labor while ignoring the savings generated by productivity, which spur more demand and create more jobs. According to the authors, because demand is infinite, there will always be labor demand, giving the lie to alarmist fears about long-term unemployment caused by productivity.

Autor, D. (2010) “The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market: Implications for Employment and Earnings,” Center for American Progress, the Hamilton Project.*

The author argues that key challenges facing the U.S. labor market, predating the Great Recession, will endure. These are twofold: 1) the rise in US education levels has no kept up with the rising demand for skilled workers, resulting in a sharp rise in wage inequality; 2) The structure of job opportunities in the US has sharply polarized over the past two decades, with expanding job opportunities in both high-skill, high-wage, occupations and low-skill, low-wage occupations, coupled with contracting opportunities in middle-wage, middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs. This study outlines and explores the “forces” shaping this trajectory in the US economy and the causes and consequences of these trends in US employment patterns.

Autor, D. and Dorn, D. (2013) “The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market,” American Economic Review 103(5).

The authors argue that the interaction of consumer preferences and falling cost of automation of job tasks leads to a polarization of both employment and wages. The authors consider and reject three alternative explanations for the polarization: i) increased offshoring; ii) rising income at the top of the wage distribution; iii) rising returns to skill. The authors conclude that while each has empirical grounding, none is sufficient as a leading explanation

Bughin, J. et al. (2011) “Internet matters: The Net’s Sweeping Impact on Growth Jobs, and Prosperity,” McKinsey Global Institute, May.

This study claims to be among the first “quantitative assessment[s] of the impact of the Internet on GDP and growth while also considering the most relevant tools government and businesses can use to get the most benefit from the Internet.” The authors provide an overview of the economic impact of the Internet, from e-commerce, communications, to traditional industries, with a view to estimating the value the Internet contributes to national economies. It is suggested that the Internet revolution is analogous to the development and commercialization of electric power over a century ago.

---- (2012) “The Social Economy: Unlocking the Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies,” McKinsey Global Institute, July.

This report chronicles the potential benefits and economic value to businesses who effectively implement “IT products and services that enable the formation and operation of online communities, where participants have distributed access to content and distributed rights to create, add, and/or modify content.” The report argues that these technologies can “disintermediate” commercial relationships and upend traditional business models, as well as boost the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25%, bringing a value of more than $1 trillion annually to the economy overall. Also discussed are ways to unlock this value, which as of yet remains largely untapped.

Cowen, T. (2011) The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, Penguin.

Ford, M. (2009) The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future. Acculant Publishing.

Manyika, J., Remes, J. Roxburgh, C. (2011) “Why productivity can grow without killing jobs,” The McKinsey Quarterly,  p. 30, Spring.

Orszag, P. (2011) “Hard Slog: the real future of the U.S. economy,” Bloomberg, July.

Peck, D. (2010) “How A New Jobless Era Will Transform American,” The Atlantic.

Rifkin, J. (1996) The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, Tarcher.