Discussion Paper Details

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Title: IT and Urban Polarization

Author(s): Jan Eeckhout, Christoph Hedtrich and Roberto Pinheiro

Publication Date: September 2021

Keyword(s): IT investment. Job Polarization. Spatial Sorting. Urban Wage Premium

Programme Area(s): International Trade and Regional Economics

Abstract: We show that differential IT investment across cities has been a key driver of job and wage polarization since the 1980s. Using a novel data set, we establish two stylized facts: IT investment is highest in firms in large and expensive cities, and the decline in routine cognitive occupations is most prevalent in large and expensive cities. To explain these facts, we propose a model mechanism where the substitution of routine workers by IT leads to higher IT adoption in large cities due to a higher cost of living and higher wages. We estimate the spatial equilibrium model to trace out the effects of IT on the labor market between 1990 and 2015. We find that the fall in IT prices explains 50 percent of the rising wage gap between routine and non-routine cognitive jobs. The decline in IT prices also accounts for 28 percent of the shift in employment away from routine cognitive towards non-routine cognitive jobs. Moreover, our estimates show that the impact of IT is uneven across space. Expensive locations have seen a stronger displacement of routine cognitive jobs and a larger widening of the wage gap between routine and non-routine cognitive jobs.

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Bibliographic Reference

Eeckhout, J, Hedtrich, C and Pinheiro, R. 2021. 'IT and Urban Polarization'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.