Average Is Over by Tyler Cowen
  • Title: Average Is Over
  • Subtitle: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
  • Author(s): Tyler Cowen
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 2013-09-12
  • ISBN-10: 0698138163
  • ISBN-13: 9780698138162


In “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation,” Tyler Cowen takes a close look at the current state of the American economy and presents a thought-provoking argument about the future of work and inequality. Cowen argues that advancements in technology and artificial intelligence are rapidly reshaping the labor market, leading to a future where average workers are increasingly marginalized. According to Cowen, the key to success in this new economic landscape lies in one’s ability to adapt, constantly learn new skills, and embrace the opportunities provided by technology.

Drawing on a wide range of examples and data, Cowen explores how technology and innovation have already disrupted various industries and what implications this will have for the average worker. He discusses the increasing importance of human capital and the rising wage gaps between those who can effectively leverage their skills and those who cannot. While the book paints a somewhat bleak picture of the future for those who fail to adapt, Cowen also provides actionable insights for individuals, businesses, and policymakers to navigate the challenges ahead and ensure a more inclusive and prosperous future for all. “Average Is Over” offers a thought-provoking and timely analysis of the evolving economic landscape and provides valuable insights into how individuals can thrive in an ever-changing world.

Book Review

In his thought-provoking book, “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation,” Tyler Cowen delves into the profound implications of the evolving technological landscape on the American economy, work, and social inequality. Cowen artfully combines economic analysis, statistical data, and real-world examples to support his argument that adaptation and embracing technology are critical for success in the future labor market.

Cowen begins by highlighting how technology has already disrupted various industries, causing a significant shift in the skills demanded by employers. He uses the example of chess to illustrate how even the most highly skilled human players have been surpassed by computer algorithms, leading to an increase in prize money for humans who collaborate with computers rather than compete against them. This analogy serves as a warning that in many professions, the average worker’s role will be increasingly marginalized unless they adapt and embrace technological advancements.

Throughout the book, Cowen stresses the importance of what he terms “human capital” - the unique skills, knowledge, and adaptability possessed by individuals. He argues that those who possess high levels of human capital will be rewarded with greater economic prosperity, while the less skilled will face economic hardship. The rise of “hyper-meritocracy” is exemplified in the increasing gap between the incomes of the top 1% and the rest. Cowen uses statistical data to support his claim, pointing out that the average wage of the top 1% of earners in the United States has steadily increased over time, while the wages of the middle and lower classes have stagnated or even declined.

The book also explores the role of education in the future labor market. Cowen stresses the need for lifelong learning and adapting to changing job requirements. He encourages individuals to cultivate a diverse skill set, highlighting the importance of combining technical skills with creative and interpersonal abilities. Cowen predicts that the labor market will increasingly favor those who possess a combination of expertise that cannot be easily replicated by technology, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

While Cowen’s portrayal of the future may seem daunting, he also provides actionable insights for individuals, businesses, and policymakers. He suggests a need for educational reforms that prioritize skill-building, incorporating low-cost online platforms and flexible learning options to ensure that more individuals have access to opportunity. Cowen also proposes policies such as wage subsidies and portable benefits, which could help bridge the income gap and support a more inclusive society.

Overall, “Average Is Over” is a thought-provoking book that challenges conventional wisdom and presents a compelling argument about the future of work. Cowen successfully combines economic analysis with concrete examples to paint a vivid picture of the shifting labor market and the role of technology in determining success. This book is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to navigate the complexities of the modern workforce and for policymakers aiming to shape policies that promote equality and resilience in an era of rapid technological advancement.

Word Count: 494

Target Audience

The book “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation” by Tyler Cowen is targeted at a diverse audience interested in the future of work, economics, and technology. The book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Workers and Job Seekers Cowen’s analysis of the changing labor market and the skills demanded by employers provides valuable insights for individuals who want to enhance their employability and thrive in the future economy. It offers guidance on the importance of continuous learning, adaptability, and embracing technology to remain competitive.

  • Business Leaders and Managers “Average Is Over” presents thought-provoking ideas about the impact of technology on businesses and the necessary strategies for success. Cowen’s emphasis on the importance of human capital and skilled employees offers valuable insights for business leaders seeking to navigate the challenges posed by technological advancements and evolving consumer demands.

  • Policymakers and Educators The book provides policymakers and educators with a deep understanding of the changing dynamics of the labor market. It offers insights into the necessity for educational reforms that prioritize skill-building, lifelong learning, and equal access to opportunities. Cowen’s policy recommendations, such as wage subsidies and portable benefits, also provide valuable insights for policymakers seeking to address the rising income inequality.

  • Financial and Economic Analysts “Average Is Over” presents a comprehensive analysis of economic trends and the impact of technology on income distribution. The book offers a unique perspective on the future of capitalism, meritocracy, and social mobility, making it a recommended read for analysts interested in studying these topics.

In conclusion, “Average Is Over” is recommended reading as it provides a thought-provoking analysis of the future of work and its potential impact on society. It offers practical insights for individuals, business leaders, policymakers, and analysts, helping them to better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by rapid technological advancements and the changing dynamics of the labor market.