Technological Change and Obsolete Skills: Evidence from Men’s Professional Tennis

Ian Fillmore and Jonathan Hall:

Technological innovation can raise the returns to some skills while making others less valuable or even obsolete. We study the effects of such skill-altering technological change in the context of men’s professional tennis, which was unexpectedly transformed by the invention of composite racquets during the late 1970s. We explore the consequences of this innovation on player productivity, entry, and exit. We find that young players benefited at the expense of older players and that the disruptive effects of the new racquets persisted over two to four generations.