Big Data in Population Science - Mini-Series (3 of 4)
STEM Careers and the Changing Skill Requirements of Work
David J. Deming (Harvard University, Graduate School of Education)
Monday, 04/22/2019, 12:00 pm to 1:20 pm. ARCHIVED EVENT
Location: 1430 ISR - Thompson
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are a key contributor to eco- nomic growth and national competitiveness. Yet STEM workers are perceived to be in short supply. This paper shows that the "STEM shortage" phenomenon is explained by technological change, which introduces new job skills and makes old ones obsolete. We find that the initially high economic return to applied STEM degrees declines by more than 50 percent in the first decade of working life. This coincides with a rapid exit of college graduates from STEM occupations. Using detailed job vacancy data, we show that STEM jobs changed especially quickly over the last decade, leading to flatter age-earnings profiles as the skills of older cohorts became obsolete. Our findings highlight the importance of technology-specific skills in explaining life-cycle returns to education, and show that STEM jobs are the leading edge of technology diffusion in the labor market.
David Deming is a Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Director of the Harvard Inequality and Social Policy Program, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses broadly on the economics of skill development, education and labor markets. He is currently serving as a coeditor at the AEJ: Applied, and is a Principal Investigator (along with Raj Chetty and John Friedman) at the CLIMB Initiative, an organization that seeks to study and improve the role of higher education in social mobility. He recently won the David N. Kershaw Prize, which is awarded biannually to scholars who have made distinguished contributions to the field of public policy and management under the age of 40.