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The impact of technological mobility on workers’ careers

Purpose- The aim of this article is to define a new kind of labor mobility called technological mobility, defined here as the different levels of technological change experienced by workers as they change jobs over the course of their career. Technological mobility is viewed as a form of career mobility, and it is hypothesized that moving to jobs in higher‐tech industries might prove beneficial to workers’ careers irrespective of the level of education or other measures of ability. Factors that determine upward or downward technological mobility are also investigated. Design/methodology/approach- This hypothesis is tested using data from the NLSY79, a nationally representative survey of the United States, between the years 1988 and 2000. Determinants of upward and downward technological mobility are modeled using industry‐level data on technological mobility. Technological mobility is also regressed against wages to measure its impact on careers. Findings- Gender, education and local economic conditions are found to have a significant effect on technological mobility, but the effect varies depending on the way technological intensity is measured. The results also demonstrate that workers who move to high‐tech industries are indeed rewarded with higher wages, even after controlling for education levels and other known factors. Originality/value- Technological mobility as defined here is an original concept. It is shown to be an important component of overall career mobility. The article also provides an analysis of workers who are able to make the transition into higher‐tech jobs, which is a valuable addition to the research on technological change.