AI and Mobility: A Round-Up of Research on AI and the Future of Education and Work

We’re keeping track of noteworthy research on AI and economic mobility so you don’t have to.

Everybody is talking about the potential of new-gen AI to revolutionize the way we work—the jobs people do, the skills required, and what we need to learn for life and careers. Like any transformative technology, its adoption will create losers and winners, and how that plays out will have major implications for economic mobility and equity.

All that strikes to the heart of what we write about at Work Shift, and to what our readers care about. And we hear from people everyday who are eager to understand this shifting landscape. So, as we’ve started gathering studies and surveys that will inform our work, it made perfect sense to share them with you.

The following is a roundup of research on AI and education+work that has caught our eye. Like other research round-ups we’ve done, it is a living document. In particular:

  • This does not attempt to be a comprehensive list of all research on AI and its impacts on postsecondary education and work.
  • It is focused on studies that look at how the adoption of generative AI may impact equity and economic mobility, and help or hinder connections between education and work.

This is just the start. So check back and feel free to make suggestions of research we should add. (This article was originally published August 16, 2023 and last updated November 21, 2023.)

Photo by Matheus Bertelli via Pexels

Deep dive: Studies we’ve dug into

+The mother of ‘future of work’ reports. Future of Jobs Report 2023,” World Economic Forum, May 2023.

This massive report looks at a whole host of factors transforming jobs worldwide, and it has lots to say on AI. About 85% of the organizations it surveyed said that new and frontier technologies and broadening digital access are most likely to drive transformation in their organization in the next five years. Three quarters of companies said they are likely to adopt new AI technologies in that timeframe—and almost half expected AI to create more jobs than it eliminates (while about a quarter expected it to destroy jobs on net, and the rest were neutral). If you’re looking for a more succinct take from WEF, this article on three ways AI is altering the future of work is for you.

+ AI and skill shifts. “Generative AI and the future of work in America,” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2023.

This report looks at occupation and skill shifts broadly, including the impact of generative AI. Overall, the researchers estimate that activities that account for up to 30% of the hours Americans currently work could be automated by 2030, a trend accelerated by AI. That said, AI is expected primarily to change the way STEM, creative, and business and legal professionals work, rather than to eliminate a significant number of jobs outright. Robotics and other forms of non-AI automation present the most threat to jobs—and lower-income workers are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than are highly-paid ones.

+ AI and college-educated workers.What jobs are affected by AI? Better-paid, better-educated workers face the most exposure,” Brookings Institution, November 2019.

A lot of research looks at the impact of automation, a broad category that includes robotics, software, and AI all in one—but the researchers here took pains to separate out the specific impact of AI. And they found that white-collar jobs will be by far the most affected, as will certain skilled factory roles. The analysis found that workers with a bachelor’s degree but no higher will be more than five times as exposed to AI’s effects as workers with only a high school degree. For those with a graduate or professional degree, it’s four times. Exposure does not necessarily mean job loss, but rather that the tasks will change.

+ What workers’ think.Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Work Survey,” Jobs for the Future, June 2023. 

This survey found that only 1 in 10 workers are currently seeing AI impact their work. Nevertheless, more than half (58%) believe they will need to gain new skills as a result of AI’s impact, and a third feel they need to do so within the next year. The vast majority said they do not trust their employer to support them in understanding this emerging technology, and more than three quarters think it is important to regulate how employers use AI. College-educated workers were more likely to favor regulation than were those without a degree. (This is the inaugural survey from JFF’s new Center for Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Work.)

+ The test case. How AI-powered software development may affect labor markets,” Brookings Institution, August 2023.

Today’s generative AI has the potential to now impact non-routine occupations like teaching and design. What might that mean for the future of those professions? This brief examines the historical trajectory of software development to understand what might lie ahead for that field and other knowledge-worker careers. The TLDR: In the era of AI, jobs may not go away, but workers are going to need to constantly learn and integrate new tools to keep up.

+ [NEW] AI and college students.AI in Higher Ed: Hype, Harm, or Help,” Anthology, November 2023.

Among U.S. college students, 38% use generative AI tools at least monthly—but only 10% use them at least weekly, less than half the rate of students in the 10 other countries in the survey. On the whole, American students lag those in all the other surveyed countries (except Britain) when it comes to use of and familiarity with AI tools. That may be due in part to U.S. university leaders’ skepticism about AI. They are far less likely than their counterparts in other countries to think that generative AI will “revolutionize teaching and learning methods,” and are more likely to be concerned about cheating and plagiarism. Only 3% of U.S. university leaders are themselves frequent users of generative AI tools. 

(Related: A similar survey, the “2023 Global Student Survey,” by also found that American college students substantially lag others around the world in their use of AI tools.)

+ Congressional Oversight. “Exploring Congress’ Framework for the Future of AI: The Oversight and Legislative Role of Congress Over the Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Health, Education, and Labor,” released by Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, September 2023.

This white paper explores Congress’ oversight and legislative role relative to AI, and highlights its potential and pitfalls in education and work. On education, the white paper highlights AI’s ability to provide more personalized learning for students while reducing the workload for teachers and faculty members—calling out Khan Academy’s AI guide, Khanmigo, and Georgia State University’s work with predictive analytics and chatbots as examples of tools that are already seeing results. On workforce, the primarily focuses on job and task displacement but also discusses AI’s potential to help workers look for a job or upskill to a new one. “AI’s potential positive impact on work is less discussed, but may prove more significant,” it asserts.

    Other research on our radar

    + Labor and economic impact. More than 40% of labor force to be affected by AI in 3 years, Morgan Stanley forecasts,” CNBC, October 2023.

    + Landscape overview.The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year,” QuantumBlack AI by McKinsey, August 2023.

    + Who will be affected?Which U.S. Workers Are More Exposed to AI on Their Jobs?,” Pew Research Center, July 2023.

    + What workers’ think.AI in Hiring and Evaluating Workers: What Americans Think,” Pew Research Center, April 2023.

    + Disruption and skilling.The Future of Jobs in the Era of AI,” Boston Consulting Group, March 2021.

    + Emerging jobs and skill sets.Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy,” World Economic Forum, January 2020.

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