Economic restructuring provides an opportunity for socially valuable product and process innovation. However, it's not clear whether displaced workers engage in socially useful activities as well. This question is particularly pressing when the advancement of computer technology creates the destructive force to replace many jobs with robotic labor and artificial intelligence. Leveraging German district-level and European country-level data we analyze the relationship between the economic crisis in 2008-2010 and a socially useful online activity - contributions to the largest online encyclopedia Wikipedia. We find increased contributions to the socially valuable activity in the form of knowledge acquisition and contributions to Wikipedia. We analyze both content generation at the European Country level and at the German district level. For German districts, we observe an increase in the rate of content generation on Wikipedia more severely affected districts. These effects get even stronger in our analysis at the European country level.
Kummer, Michael, Olga Slivkó and Michael Zhang (2015), Economic Downturn and Volunteering: Do Economic Crises Affect Content Generation on Wikipedia?, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 15-078, Mannheim. Download