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The Impact of Fear of Automation


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Golin, M. 
Rauh, C. 


In this paper, we establish a causal effect of workers’ perceived probability of losing one’s job due to automation on preferences for redistribution and intentions to join a union. In a representative sample of the US workforce, we elicit the perceived fear of losing one’s job to robots or artificial intelligence. We document a strong relationship between fear of automation and intentions to join a union, retrain and switch occupations, preferences for higher taxation, higher government handouts, populist attitudes, and voting intentions. We then show a causal effect of providing information about job loss probabilities on preferred levels of taxation and handouts. In contrast, our information treatment does not affect workers’ intentions to self-insure by retraining or switching occupations, but it increases workers’ self-reported likelihood of joining a union to seek more job protection. The treatment effects are mostly driven by workers who are informed about larger job loss probabilities than they perceived.



Automation, Information treatment, Political attitudes, Political preferences, Redistribution, Inequality, Populism

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Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge

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