The History of Classifying Occupations and How It Affects Our Perception of Work

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Tamara Menzi on Unsplash

To help match the unemployed with employment opportunities in the depths of the Great Depression, Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, worked to pass The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933, creating Employment Service field offices across the country. After recognizing the value of the employment data collected in those offices, the field sites were later mobilized into the Occupational Analysis (OA) Program, a systematic effort to define every occupation in the United States. In 1939, they published their findings in the first edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).

The same way that every English word is in the Oxford Dictionary, the DOT worked to define, categorize, and sort every job, publishing four editions between 1939 and 1991. In its first edition, this ambitious project cataloged over 17,500 occupations within 550 occupational groups. …


Amanda Silver

Obsessed with people & process; advocate for labor dignity, voice & ownership. Subscribe to Workable for monthly news on changing work:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store