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Information, Technology, and Innovation: Resources for Growth in a Connected World by John M. Jordan

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CHAPTER 13

Work

What constitutes work, where it happens, who does it, and how it is rewarded are all in flux. Multiple macro-level forces are responsible, and a full treatment of the question is out of our current scope. The interaction between people's work and their technologies has always been important, however, so some attention to the question is in line here.

The Big Picture: Macro Trends

Ever since its founding, the United States has steadily produced more and more economic value. In 1900, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, in current dollars, was $268. By 1950, that figure had multiplied seven times to about $2,000. Between 1950 and 2000, the multiple was 18. To put that per capita figure in perspective, real GDP rose from $294 billion to $9,817 billion: a 33-fold increase. (The ratio of 18 to 33 suggests that total population nearly doubled, which it did, from 151 million to 281 million.)

The role of agriculture has changed in surprising ways. The number of farms in the United States in 1950 was almost the same as in 1900, a little over five and a half million after having peaked in the mid-1930s. By 2000, the number of farms had dropped to 2.2 million, but the average size, possibly reflecting the rise of organic farms, was actually dropping from its high in 1994. The amount of total acreage in farms reached its peak in 1953: For all the talk of urbanization in the late nineteenth century, it turns out that in 1950, the United States was still robustly rural, ...

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