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Feb. 23, 2016, 6:43 a.m. EST

The robots are coming for jobs that pay $20 an hour or less, White House finds

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

It’s intuitive that automation will take low-wage jobs.

But the White House, in its annual economic report of the president , has broken down just how much that is so.

There’s an 83% chance that automation will take a job with an hourly wage below $20, a 31% chance automation will take a job with an hourly wage between $20 and $40, and just a 4% chance automation will take a job with an hourly wage above $40.

The White House used the same data that underlines other research in the field of labor and robots to arrive at the conclusion. Also read: Boston, D.C. are cities with jobs least likely to be taken away by robots

The key question is what happens when a robot takes one of these low-wage jobs.

Traditionally, innovation leads to higher income, more consumption and more jobs, but the question is whether the current pace of automation may in the shorter term increase inequality.

One study found that higher levels of robot density within an industry lead to higher wages in that industry, the White House notes. However, that could be because the absence of lower-skills biases wage estimates upwards.

The White House says the findings demonstrate the need for training and education to help displaced workers find new jobs.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.

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