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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new paper shows that as automation has reduced the number of rote jobs, it has led to an increase in the proportion and value of occupations that involve decision-making.

Why it matters: Automation and AI will shape the labor market, putting a premium — at least for now — on workers who can make decisions on the fly, while eroding the value of routine jobs.

By the numbers: David Deming, a political economist at the Harvard Kennedy School, analyzed labor data over the past half-century and found that the share of all U.S. jobs requiring decision-making rose from 6% in 1960 to 34% in 2018, with nearly half the increase occurring since 2007.

  • Partially as a result, a greater share of wages is going to management and management-related occupations, more than doubling since 1960 to 32% — a trend that is more pronounced in high-growth industries.

Details: This shift has also reinforced generational disparity in the labor market.

  • Getting better at making decisions requires experience, and experience requires time on the job.
  • Largely as a result, career earnings growth in the U.S. more than doubled between 1960 and 2017, and the age of peak earnings increased from the late 30s to the mid-50s.

Between the lines: As automation and AI take up more of the decision-making in jobs like trucking and warehouse logistics, workers in those occupations won't get the chance to build up the cognitive skills employers increasingly value.

What they're saying: "One implication is that AI leads to lots of angry, frustrated, left-wing young people, and a cementing in of the gerontocracy," economist Tyler Cowen commented in a blog post.

The bottom line: In the current economy, what you know matters less than how adept you are at learning — at least until AI learns how to do that, too.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

White House acknowledges U.S. will miss July 4 vaccination goal

Fireworks in New York City to celebrate the state reaching a 70% vaccination rate. Photo: Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images

The Biden administration acknowledged on Tuesday that it will likely miss its goal of vaccinating 70% of U.S. adults with at least one dose by July 4.

Why it matters: Despite falling short of the goal, the White House still believes most Americans will be safe to fully celebrate Independence Day, as COVID-19 cases and deaths remain at low levels throughout much of the country.

Exclusive: Quartz, NYT vets launch new media company about work

Photo credit: Emma Howells for Charter

Quartz co-founders Kevin Delaney and Jay Lauf, along with New York Times veteran Erin Grau, are launching a new media and services company called "Charter" that is centered around the future of work, the founders told Axios.

Why it matters: "There are other media companies that write about this topic — some occasionally and some more frequently, but it's one topic among many things that they do," Delaney said. "This is a driving focus for us."