The Effect of Demand Shocks on Human Capital Acquisition Strategies: The Case of Adobe Flash Workers

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


Workers experiencing a large decline in demand for their skills will often encounter substantially lower earnings that persist for many years or even decades. This research will focus on the workers who experienced a negative demand shock when a specific software program was no longer supported. The context is Upwork (formerly oDesk), a large online labor marketplace. The workers experiencing the negative demand shock were those that specialized in Flash, a popular software suite and programming language. In May 2010, Apple announced that the company would no longer support Flash on Apple devices which decreased the demand for Flash programmers. This research will focus on those Flash workers in the years following the decline of the product. In addition to documenting the effect of the decline on worker earnings, wages, hours worked and job search intensity, this research will focus on understanding the post-decline human capital acquisition strategies. In all facets of the study, I will focus on exploring heterogeneity in outcomes, with the hope of discovering successful strategies. The overarching goal is to develop generalizable insights about how workers successfully adjust to negative demand shocks and ultimately, to inform ameliorating public policies.