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Xi Song, University of Pennsylvania

Thu December 7th 2023, 12:30 - 1:45pm
McClatchy Hall - Building 120, Studio 40
The Mobility Divide: Exploring Unequal Transition Pathways in Occupations on the Rise and on the Decline

Emerging technologies and changing economic conditions have created new work, job tasks, and occupations. Yet many occupations that were once highly desirable and in demand have also been downgraded, declined, or even disappeared. We examine the relationship between changing occupations and workers' mobility. Specifically, do workers experience reduced mobility prospects if their occupations are in decline? We construct a novel dataset of 12,381 occupation-year observations documented in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000--2020) to measure employment trends within occupations. By linking occupational outlook data to workers' mobility in the Current Population Surveys, we examine job mobility opportunities of workers in occupations with expanding and contracting employment. Our analyses show that workers in occupations with job contraction face a double disadvantage with respect to occupational mobility. First, their jobs are more unstable than workers in stable occupations. Second, when they change occupations, they are likely to move from one declining occupation to another and experience downward mobility into lower-paying occupations. Our results suggest that changing occupational demand in recent decades has influenced inequality in opportunities for mobility. Workers in declining occupations face significant challenges in seeking and securing jobs in the new economy.