Automation and the labour market
The effects of automation, robots and artificial intelligence on labour market outcomes constituted an important topic at the ASSA 2018. Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and Pascual Restrepo (Boston University) presented three papers in total, including a model that accounts for both the automation of tasks and the creation of new tasks performed by humans, which in turn offers a novel framework to analyse the interplay between technical progress, innovation and labour. They also showed an empirical application and found that robot adoption has reduced employment in the US manufacturing. James Bessen (Boston University) argued that technology can boost employment as long as the markets are not saturated and the productivity-driven decline in prices translates into a higher demand. Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University) presented a model of labour-augmenting technical progress and efficiency wages where technical progress was “excessive”, resulting in too high unemployment. Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT) and Robert Seamans (NTU) presented ongoing projects aimed at quantifying how machine learning and artificial intelligence may substitute various occupations.
Piotr Lewandowski, the president of IBS, presented the IBS Working Paper “Routine and Ageing? The Intergenerational Divide In The Deroutinisation Of Jobs In Europe” in the paper session on automation which was organised by the American Economic Association. He focused on the age dimension of the task content changes in the EU. The other papers in this session, for instance, studied the effect of declining ICT prices on wage polarisation in Europe Vahagn Jerbashian, University of Barcelona) or utilised patent texts to study the effects of automation on employment in the US (Lukas Puettmann, Katja Mann – University of Bonn).
Minimum wage and the earnings distribution
The session on new methods and new models to analyse minimum wage and the earnings distribution was also outstanding. Attila Lindner (University College London) and co-authors applied a bunching estimator and an event study analysis of 138 minimum wage increases between 1979 and 2016 in the US, finding that the overall number of low-wage jobs remained essentially unchanged after minimum wage hikes. Brian Phelan (DePaul University) showed that using longer panels or longer time horizons results in larger effects of minimum wage hikes on wages and / or higher ripple effects than the effects usually obtained in two-year panels or time horizons.
Global income and wealth inequality
Another interesting session was led by Emmanuel Saez (University of California-Berkeley) was focused on the global income and wealth inequality as shown by the World and Wealth Income Database. Attention was paid to global and regional inequality patterns, but also to changes in Russia and China during their integration with global market economy (Filip Novokmet, Paris School of Economics), and extreme inequality in Brazil, India, the Middle-East, and South Africa (Facundo Alvaredo, Paris School of Economics).
Materials from the conference are available on the conference website.