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More Power to the People: : Electricity Adoption, Technological Change and Social Conflict

Enflo, Kerstin LU ; Karlsson, Tobias LU and Molinder, Jakob LU (2019) In CEPR Discussion paper p.1-36
Abstract
There is a wide-spread concern that technical change may spur social conflicts, especially if workers are replaced with machines. To empirically analyze whether job destruction drives protests, we study a historical example of a revolutionary new technology: the adoption of electricity. Focusing on the gradual roll-out of the Swedish electricity grid between 1900 and 1920 enables us to analyze 2,487 Swedish parishes in a difference-in-differences framework. Proximity to large-scale water-powered electricity plants is used to instrument for electricity adoption. Our results confirm that the labor saving nature of electricity was followed by an increase of local conflicts in the form of strikes. But displaced workers were not likely to... (More)
There is a wide-spread concern that technical change may spur social conflicts, especially if workers are replaced with machines. To empirically analyze whether job destruction drives protests, we study a historical example of a revolutionary new technology: the adoption of electricity. Focusing on the gradual roll-out of the Swedish electricity grid between 1900 and 1920 enables us to analyze 2,487 Swedish parishes in a difference-in-differences framework. Proximity to large-scale water-powered electricity plants is used to instrument for electricity adoption. Our results confirm that the labor saving nature of electricity was followed by an increase of local conflicts in the form of strikes. But displaced workers were not likely to initiate conflicts. Instead, strikes were most common in sectors with employment growth. Similarly, we find that the strikes were of an offensive rather than a defensive nature. Thus, electrification did not result in rebellions driven by technological anxiety. It rather provided workers with a stronger bargaining position from which they could voice their claims through strikes. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Working paper
publication status
published
subject
keywords
electrification, infrastructure investments, Labor conflicts, labor demand, strikes, Technological change
in
CEPR Discussion paper
issue
13986
pages
36 pages
publisher
Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
project
From Sundsvall to Saltsjöbaden: A regional perspective on strikes at the Swedish labor market
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
400a2a4f-e3ed-45c7-bdb6-db962da0a4c1
alternative location
http://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13986
date added to LUP
2019-09-09 11:16:44
date last changed
2019-09-19 09:27:32
@misc{400a2a4f-e3ed-45c7-bdb6-db962da0a4c1,
  abstract     = {There is a wide-spread concern that technical change may spur social conflicts, especially if workers are replaced with machines. To empirically analyze whether job destruction drives protests, we study a historical example of a revolutionary new technology: the adoption of electricity. Focusing on the gradual roll-out of the Swedish electricity grid between 1900 and 1920 enables us to analyze 2,487 Swedish parishes in a difference-in-differences framework. Proximity to large-scale water-powered electricity plants is used to instrument for electricity adoption. Our results confirm that the labor saving nature of electricity was followed by an increase of local conflicts in the form of strikes. But displaced workers were not likely to initiate conflicts. Instead, strikes were most common in sectors with employment growth. Similarly, we find that the strikes were of an offensive rather than a defensive nature. Thus, electrification did not result in rebellions driven by technological anxiety. It rather provided workers with a stronger bargaining position from which they could voice their claims through strikes.},
  author       = {Enflo, Kerstin and Karlsson, Tobias and Molinder, Jakob},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {09},
  note         = {Working Paper},
  number       = {13986},
  pages        = {1--36},
  publisher    = {Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)},
  series       = {CEPR Discussion paper},
  title        = {More Power to the People: : Electricity Adoption, Technological Change and Social Conflict},
  url          = {http://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13986},
  year         = {2019},
}