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Have the Robots Come for the Middle Class?

This story originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Computers and cyborgs aren’t about to render the American worker obsolete. But they’re tilting the nation’s economy more and more in favor of the rich and away from the poor and the middle class, new economic research contends.

Despite rising fears of technology displacing huge swaths of the workforce, there remain huge classes of jobs that robots (and low-wage foreign workers) still can’t replace in the United States, and won’t replace any time soon. To land the best of those jobs, workers need sophisticated vocabularies, advanced problem-solving abilities and other high-value skills that the U.S. economy does a good job of bestowing on young people from wealthy families — but can’t seem to deliver to poor and middle-class kids.

 

That is the alternatively optimistic and bleak picture of the domestic labor market sketched by economists Frank Levy of MIT and Richard J. Murnane of Harvard, who conducted a detailed study of what jobs have been lost to automation in recent years and which jobs are likely to be lost as technology keeps advancing. They wrapped their findings into a new paper for the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, in which they argue, “For the foreseeable future, the challenge of ‘cybernation’ is not mass unemployment but the need to educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do.”

To read the complete article, visit the Washington Post.