Technological Change and Clerical Careers, 1980 - 2019

Emily Curran, University of Pennsylvania
Jerry Jacobs, University of Pennsylvania

Clerical work took its modern form with the invention of the typewriter and the growth of managerial-based organizations starting in the 1880s. The number of secretaries continued to grow for a century until the 1980s when their share of the labor force plateaued and began to decline. We seek to address how office work is being affected by technological changes, focusing predominately on the period following the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s. To understand the historical context of the occupation prior to this period, we will also examine how previous technological innovations, like the typewriter, shaped office workers. We draw on Current Population Survey data to understand the evolution of the social and economic standing of office workers and to trace their career trajectories through the critical innovations of the typewriter and the personal computer. We examine changes in the age, education, earnings and career mobility patterns for secretaries, clerical workers, and managers. Our project offers a new understanding of the changing female labor force by characterizing the population of office workers who have exited their occupations and their subsequent career trajectories.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 222. Professionalizing Labor