Carnegie Mellon University

National Science Foundation Projects

The Block Center for Technology and Society is proud to announce that three of our research projects have received the generous support of the National Science Foundation. 

Measuring the Effects of Technological Change on Manufacturing Employment

The American manufacturing sector has been transformed by advances in automation, opening up the potential to radically shift the ways in which workers participate in this sector. While the existing research has characterized the impacts of past technological changes on employment, wages, and productivity, prior work has struggled to credibly predict the likely effects of emerging technologies. By analyzing the consequences of technological change on individual steps of the manufacturing process, Professors Erica Fuchs, Brian Kovak, Laurence Ales and Kate Whitefoot are informing the future of worker training programs and workplace policy to support re-skilling initiatives and curb worker displacement. To date, this project has received $650,000 from the National Science Foundation, $149,244 from the Russell Sage Foundation, and $20,000 from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Up-skilling and Re-skilling Marginalized Workers

The growth of the online work and gig economies has opened up new opportunities for rural communities to participate in the digital marketplace. In particular, the introduction of digitized work opportunities could aid in the economic recovery of regions whose traditional industries have left. However, work on current platforms is often low-level labeling work offering few opportunities for advancement. It is often intended to train artificial intelligence to automate this work away, instead of training workers. Moreover, those who most need to develop skills to gain higher-paying jobs often cannot afford the unpaid time spent in training needed to develop them. Thus, the introduction of paid work opportunities that provide the skills training necessary for preparing workers for the digital economy is paramount to ensuring that these workers are not left behind. This project aims to uplift workers by creating digital jobs that are unlikely to be automated in the near to medium-term future. In collaboration with researchers at Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and West Virginia University, and partnering with local institutions, this project will investigate the best methods of supporting marginalized workers through the up-skilling and re-skilling process of transitioning to online work. This initiative has been supported through a $2.5M grant from the National Science Foundation.

Driving Low-Income Mothers to Greater Success

When seeking employment, many single and low-income mothers encounter numerous challenges, from securing stable childcare to affording transportation to and from work. In particular, job interviews and long-term commutes are often complicated by gaps in the public transportation system. The rise of ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, may present a useful new way of expanding the mobility of working mothers. Through an analysis of the impact of access to affordable ride-hailing services on mobility and employment outcomes, Professors Beibei Li, Lee Branstetter and Lowell Taylor aim to expand access to greater economic opportunity for low-income mothers. This project has received a $285,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.