The National Bureau of Economic Research’s working paper titled “Computerization, Obsolescence, and the Length of Working Life” takes a deep look into how technology and the computerization of the workplace impacted older workers from 1984 to 2017.
According to the analysis, the computer knowledge gap between older and younger professionals was at its peak during the 1980s and early 1990s, but disappeared by the mid 2010s.
The researchers utilized responses from government surveys to measure the amount of computer skills workers over 50 were equipped with in their occupations.
Computer knowledge gaps increased the likelihood that older workers would retire by 1 to 1.4 percentage points each year, which also raised the retirement rate from 8% to 9%.
Researchers also determined that a knowledge gap of 10 percentage points decreased annual wages by at minimum 2.5%, and at most 7%.
Those hit hardest by knowledge gaps included women, office workers, workers with some college education and older workers aged between 60 and 64.
Women historically receive less opportunities than men, including learning to use computers. Additionally, office workers may have viewed computers as trying to replace their jobs. Those with higher education likely had more chances to learn how to use computers. Lastly, older workers may have found that retraining was not necessary as they were already nearing the end of their careers.