University of Redlands

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ISEA report: Automation most likely to hurt job prospects of Hispanics, African-Americans, and the young

REDLANDS, California (June 26, 2017)—Job automation will put many workers at risk, but which ones? New data released today by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis (ISEA) at the University of Redlands identifies the demographic groups most vulnerable to job automation as Hispanics, African-Americans, and the young.

“While new jobs are likely to be created as existing jobs disappear, there is no guarantee that enough well-paying jobs will be generated or that all demographics will share equally in the gains and losses,” said Dr. Jess Chen, faculty fellow at ISEA and lead researcher on the project. “We set out to understand which demographic groups are most vulnerable to having their jobs automated.”

In the new report, the ISEA economists share the results of their research, which combined findings by professors at the University of Oxford on the probability of automation for various occupations over the next 20 years with employment data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Because the jobs requiring the least complex tasks and lowest education are most likely to be automated,” said Professor Johannes Moenius, ISEA director, “the groups with lower educational profiles are going to hurt most in the future – possibly big time.”

According to the report, workers without a high school degree face an almost six times higher risk than those with a doctorate. Hispanics are 25 percent more likely than Whites to lose their jobs to automation, as are 13 percent of African-Americans and 11 percent of Asians.

Workers ages 16-19 have a 66 percent higher chance of job automation than workers in the 35-44 age range. Since more women than men work in professions that are “highly automatable” (above a 95-percent chance of automation in the next 20 years), twice as many women than men are likely to lose a job.

The researchers emphasize that technology per se does not necessarily translate into job displacement or unemployment, as technology has historically been a job creator. However, automation requires workers to transition from jobs no longer in demand to newly created jobs. This process renders certain skills obsolete and requires the acquisition of new skills through education and training.

“Decisions to get an education or embark on certain careers are diverse and influenced by many factors,” says Moenius. “But we do think it’s important to see how different groups may be affected. Every worker and every middle-school and high-school student needs to know—if you are not getting a broad and solid education, if you don’t embrace life-long learning, there is no guaranteed pay-check around the corner in the future.”