DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwae016 ISSN: 1475-1461

The spectacle of automation and status aspirations: adoption of automated metro systems around the world, 2000–2020

Youbin Kang, Jungmyung Kim
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science


Automation’s extensive impact on the labor market and economy is well recognized, but the underlying motivations for its adoption remain understudied. To address this gap, we analyze an original dataset covering 1276 cities across 148 countries, using event history analysis to examine the adoption of automated metro systems. Our research suggests that city governments are driven by status competition in their decisions to automate subway systems. We find that high-status cities are more likely to adopt automation. However, this trend diminishes when cities are preparing to host a mega-event such as the Olympics, indicating that lower-status cities use these events as opportunities to adopt automation technologies. Our finding reveals that status-driven aspirations, manifesting in the spectacle of automation, are a significant motivator for adopting automated technologies, prompting further investigation into the socio-economic factors influencing automation and the symbolic importance of technological advancement across various economic sectors.

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