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5 Differential Technology Impacts: Black Workers' Female Workers' and Labor Force Entrants Technological change may differentially affect workers from various demographic or ethnic groups. In this chapter, we briefly examine the effects of new technology on three such groups: black workers, female workers, and labor force entrants. The evidence, limited as it is, indicates that the direct effects of technological change on these groups will be minor. Nevertheless, concerns have long been expressed (see Har- rington, 1962; the National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, 1966) that employment opportunities for young and minority workers in the future U.S. economy may be reduced as a result of technological change. Those concerns have not diminished since the 1960s unemployment rates among minorities in the United States, especially rates for black youths, have shown a disturbing pattern of increase relative to those for whites. What are the likely impacts of technological change on the employment prospects of minorities and labor force entrants, as well as for women? BLACK WORKERS Technological change may affect the employment prospects of black workers in at least three ways: The results of a less detailed analysis of the employment effects of technology for Hispanic workers are reported later in this chapter. ~3
114 TECHNOLOGYAND EMPLOYMENT 1. They may be concentrated in occupations and industries that are particularly vulnerable to technological change. 2. Once displaced by technological change, black workers may face particular difficulties in obtaining new jobs. 3. The economic welfare of black workers also may be affected by the impact of technological change on the skills required for employment. If technological change increases the skill requirements of jobs and black workers are not well prepared educationally to deal with such changes, they may be detrimentally affected by the introduction of new technology. Some scholars (e.g., Kasarda, 1986) have suggested that the concentra- tion of minority populations in central cities in which high-skill jobs are being created may restrict employment opportunities for blacks and Hispanics. Each of these possibilities is discussed more fully below. Occupational forecasts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1986b) can be combined with data on the racial composition of occupations from the 1980 Census of Population of the Bureau of the Census to reveal the race (black or white) and gender of workers in occupations identified by BLS as likely to experience absolute employment declines due to technological change in the United States. These data provide rough estimates of the potential negative effect of technological change on black employment opportunities. Eleven occupations (out of more than 350 occupations with at least 25,000 workers for which BLS prepares 1995 forecasts) are projected to experience absolute declines through 1995 as a result of technological change (see Table 5-1, later in this chapter). The 1 1 occupations (discussed in Chapter 4) include several clerical and admin- istrative support groups; within these groups, historical patterns of job growth, skill requirements, and discrimination have contributed to an overrepresentation of blacks. Blacks account for 12 percent of the workers in these declining occupations, a slightly higher proportion than their 11 percent share of the 1986 labor force. Assuming that the current racial composition of employment in declin- ing occupations remains unchanged through 1995, black employment opportunities in these occupations could be reduced by 30,000 jobs, admittedly a small fraction (at most 0.3 percent) of projected employment growth through 1995 (10 million-21 million jobs).2 The BLS forecasts have often underestimated the magnitude of declines in specific occupa- tions' but even assuming that the magnitude of these declines is twice as 2The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1986b) published three estimates of employment growth for 1984-1995. The bounds on the 10 million-21 million range correspond to the low and high BLS projections.
DIFFERENTIAL TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS 1 15 large as that forecast by BLS still yields a very small impact on employment (60,000 jobs). If the racial composition of these occupations changes so that the share of blacks in these positions increases above their 1980 levels, the displacement consequences of technological change could be more severe than these projections suggest. Barring such increases, however, the prospective negative impacts of technological change on black employment appear to be small.3 Moreover, some evidence suggests that the overrepresentation of blacks in these occupa- tions has been declining rather than growing during the past two decades. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (1985) analysis of employment trends for minority and female workers is too highly aggregated to support strong conclusions, but it suggests that during 1967-1983 the overrepresentation of blacks in most of these occupational categories has declined; the one exception to this trend is the share of black women in clerical employment, which increased. If this decline in overrepresentation continues, the adjustment of blacks to technological change should be further eased. Once displaced by technological change or other causes, however, black workers do not fare as well as white workers with similar back- grounds. As we noted in Chapter 3, Podgursky's (1987) analysis of factors influencing the duration of displacement, which controlled for the educa- tional attainment and other attributes of displaced workers, found that the influence of race on the duration of unemployment outweighed that of any other variable (including tenure in a job prior to displacement). Although blacks account for nearly 13 percent of the total population of displaced male, blue-collar workers, their share of the population of workers unemployed for 52 weeks or more is 18 percent. The black-white gap is even greater in the duration of unemployment for black service workers and black women displaced from manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries. Although the BLS forecasts suggest relatively stable employment oppor- tunities for blacks, Kasarda (1986) has argued that the geographic implica- tions of technological change may reduce employment opportunities for urban minority populations. He contends that information technology has increased job opportunities in relatively high-skill occupations located in central cities while reducing employment opportunities in other sectors. According to Kasarda, members of urban minority populations with limited educational backgrounds are less likely to obtain these high-skill jobs. At the 3A similar analysis for Hispanic workers found that they were underrepresented in all of the 11 occupations projected by BLS to decline as a result of technological change. Total projected employment declines for Hispanics in these occupations amount to 0.1 percent of the 1986 Hispanic labor force in the United States.
116 TECHNOLOGYAND EMPLOYMENT same time, lower-skill manufacturing jobs are moving out of central cities reducing the accessibility of such jobs to minority workers. Kasarda's argument rests on several assumptions about the skill require- ments of new technologies that were discussed in Chapter 4. Contrary to his assumptions, technological change does not appear to result in dramatic increases in the skills required for entry-level jobs. Most workers are able to obtain computer and other "new technology" skills through on-thejob training and experience. Technological change does, however, appear to increase the importance of basic skills for individuals seeking employment at any point during their careers. To the extent that black or other minority job seekers do not have strong basic skills, they will face difficulties in both the urban and suburban job markets. The geographic component of Kasarda's hypothesis also is largely untested. Recent empirical work (Ellwood, 1986) has questioned the significance of geographic proximity, as opposed to race, in an analysis of the effect of distance and travel time on the employment opportunities of men in Chicago. Race appeared to be more significant than proximity to employment in explaining differences in the employment rates of other- wise comparable young white and black workers. This and other evidence (e.g., on the duration of unemployment for displaced black workers) suggests that a significant share of the difficulties faced by blacks in adjusting to technological change, whether they are displaced workers or entrants seeking employment, is due to racial discrimination. Policies to combat discrimination should reduce the difficulties faced by minority workers in adjusting to technological change. As is generally the case in considering the employment impacts of technological change, the state of the overall economy plays a major role in the way new technology affects minority employment prospects. Full employment is especially beneficial for minority workers. The effect of a full-employment economy on job opportunities for blacks, and especially for young blacks, is illustrated by analyses of minority unemployment in New England, where the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in 1985. Although unemployment among blacks (7.7 percent) remained nearly twice as high as that among whites (4.3 percent), the unemployment rate for blacks in New England was about half that for blacks nationwide (15.1 percent). The unemployment rate for black teenagers in New England, although still very high (20.9 percent), was far lower than the national rate of 40.2 percent. In addition, the gap between the unemployment rates of white teens and black teens narrowed to 9.6 percentage points in New England, far lower than the national gap of 24.5 points (Harrington and Sum, 19861. Technological change should not greatly affect the employment prospects of black workers. Nonetheless, for blacks as well as whites who lack basic skills, such prospects are dim, and they would remain so for the foreseeable
DIFFERENTIAL TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS 1 17 future even if technological change were somehow to stop tomorrow. Policies that reduce occupational segregation and discrimination in the labor market will aid the adjustment of minority groups to technological change and will benefit society as a whole; a more robust economy will greatly improve minority employment opportunities. Yet, limited access by urban minority populations to quality education in basic skills impairs the ability of these groups to adapt to the requirements of a technologically advanced workplace. The data in Chapter 3 suggest that black and Hispanic workers continue to lag behind white workers in educational attainment, although the gap is steadily shanking. Continued efforts to close this gap, combined with improved access to basic skills training for employed or displaced workers, are crucial in easing the burden of adjustment to technological change for black and Hispanic workers. FEMALE WORKERS There is insufficient evidence to make even a cautious estimate of the long-term effects of technological change on employment for women. The National Research Council's Panel on Technology and Women's Employ- ment (1986) reviewed trends for 37 clerical occupations representing approximately 29 percent of women's employment and concluded that there was little likelihood of "massive technologically induced unemploy- ment" (p. 125~. Still, the panel noted that the introduction of advanced information and computer technologies thus far had resulted in relative, and in some cases absolute, declines in back-office clerical jobs while supporting increases in positions requiring greater contact with custom- ers. Minority women are particularly affected by this shift; they are more highly concentrated in occupations (i.e., clerical and administrative support occupations such as those of postal clerk, file clerk, data-entry operator, and telephone operator) in which employment is projected either to grow slowly or decline (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1986b). BLS's 1995 occupational projections also suggest that technological change will reduce growth in a number of occupations in which women historically have been heavily represented. Five of the 11 occupations that BLS predicts will experience an absolute employment decline as a result of technological change have work forces in which 75 percent or more of the workers are women (Table 5-1~. Assuming that the current gender composition of these occupations is unchanged by 1995,4 these 4The National Research Council's Committee on Women's Employment and Related Social Issues (1986) projected that declines in occupational segregation by sex would continue through the 1980s and l990s but would occur more slowly than they had in the 1960s and 1970s.
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DIFFERENTIALTECHNOLOGYIMPACTS 119 employment declines could reduce job openings for women in these occu- pations by approximately 115,000 jobs. Combined with losses in other declining occupations, total reductions in job openings for women due to technological change could reach 136,000. The total reduction in job open- ings is approximately 0.2 percent of the projected 1995 female labor force and roughly 0.6-1.4 percent of the projected growth in jobs through 1995; an employment reduction of this magnitude should not pose a serious adjust- ment problem (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1986b). The more pessimis- tic forecasts of reduced clerical employment discussed in Chapter 4 (see Leontief and Duchin, 1985, and Roessner et al., 1985) rely on weak assumptions and methodologies and are not endorsed by this panel. Like minority workers, displaced female workers experience longer spells of unemployment than white male workers. Podgursky (1987) found that in both blue-collar and white-collar occupations, displaced women had a higher incidence of long-term unemployment than men. Among displaced blue- collar workers, 37 percent of women experienced unemployment spells of 53 weeks or more versus 30 percent of men. Among white-collar workers, 26 percent of the displaced women experienced more than 53 weeks of unemployment versus 15 percent of displaced men. Female workers do not appear to face differentially severe employment losses as a result of technological change. The women's job losses that are forecast by reliable analysts are modest in size and will be offset many times over by growth in employment opportunities for women. The secondary educational attainment of female workers exceeds that of male workers, which suggests that women in fact may be better prepared to deal with the workplace of the future. Employment prospects for women will be further improved by continued enforcement of such policies as affirmative action, which discourage sexual discrimination and occupa- tional segregation. Even with economic growth and reduced discrimina- tion, however, gaining and retaining a job will be difficult for the 7 million women workers 18 years and older (14 percent of the 1986 female labor force) whose failure to complete high school implies weaknesses in their basic skills (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, 19861. LABOR FORCE ENTRANTS Typically, individuals first enter the labor force between the ages of 16 and 24.5 For most, the early years of work are characterized by spells of 5The impact of technological change on the employment prospects for women over 16-24 years of age who enter the labor force is discussed in the previous section.
120 TECHNOLOG Y AND EMPLO YMENT TABLE 5-2 Occupational Distribution of Labor Force Entrants in 1983 and Total Projected Growth, by Category, 1984-1995 Occupation 1983 Employment Ages 16-24 (%) 1984-1995 BLS Forecast Employment Change (%) Executive, administrative, and managerial workers Professional workers Technicians and related support workers Sales workers Administrative support workers, including clerical Private household workers Service workers, except private household Precision production, craft, and repair workers Operators, fabricators, and laborers Farming, forestry, and fishing workers Active duty military 3.5 5.3 2.9 14.2 17.6 1.7 19.2 8.9 18.3 3.2 5.3 22.1 21.7 28.7 19.9 9.5 -18.3 21.3 11.7 7.3 -3.0 n.a. SOURCES: The figures for 1983 employment are based on unpublished data from the BLS January 1983 Current Population Survey and unpublished (1987) information from the Defense Manpower Center, Arlington, Virginia. The 1984-1995 BLS forecast data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1986b). voluntary part-time or short-term employment during schooling. On leaving school, they enter a career path that over their lifetimes will involve working for an average of 10 employers (Hall, 19821. Most of the jobs first held by entrants to the labor force are concentrated in service, sales, and administrative support occupations (Table 5-21; less than 10 percent are in professional or executive categories. Over time, as entrants gain work experience and move into craft, technical, executive, and professional occupations, the occupational distribution of a particular cohort of entrants comes to resemble that of the overall labor force. How will labor force entrants be affected by technology-induced changes in the structure of their employment opportunities? According to BLS forecasts, only two of the entry-level occupational groups listed in Table 5-2 (farming, forestry, and fishery workers and private household workers) will decrease in size during the next decade for any reason, including technological change. Steady economic growth, together with a projected decline in the rate of growth of the labor force (see Chapter 3) from roughly 2.3 percent per year during 1970-1986 to a projected level of roughly 1.2 percent per year during 1984-1995 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1986b), should over entrants with basic skills reasonable prospects for entry-level employment through the next decade. Indeed, employers who
DIFFERENTIAL TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS 121 rely on this labor pool to fill vacancies, such as the military, are likely to encounter increased competition for these entrants. For those entrants who lack basic skills, however, the future will be less promising, according to COSEPUP's Panel on Secondary School Education for the Changing Workplace (19841. Even the full-employment economy of New England currently displays unemployment rates for teenagers in excess of 10 percent. Many (though by no means all) of these individuals lack the basic skills necessary to take advantage of existing job opportunities. A full-employment economy can help many, but for entrants with basic educational deficiencies, even a full-employment economy may be insufficient.