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Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets

We study the effects of industrial robots on US labor markets. We show theoretically that robots may reduce employment and wages and that their local impacts can be estimated using variation in exposure to robots—defined from industry-level advances in robotics and local industry employment. We estimate robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones. We also show that areas most exposed to robots after 1990 do not exhibit any differential trends before then, and robots’ impact is distinct from other capital and technologies. One more robot per thousand workers reduces the employment-to-population ratio by 0.2 percentage points and wages by 0.42%.