Enrico Moretti studies the changing face of American Jobs in The New Geography of Jobs

MorettiEconomics professor Enrico Moretti recently published a new book titled The New Geography of Jobs (Houghton Mifflin, 2012, $28.00), and has been interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED FM's Forum. He explores the rapid redistribution of jobs, population, and wealth that is well underway and is transforming America. The new economic map is changing, and is best understood by assessing the growing differences between not only people but entire communities.

As communities evolve, it is no longer sufficient to see the U.S. as a nation of dichotomies, such as red and blue, he argues. Instead there are three Americas. At one of the spectrum, "brain hubs", such as San Francisco, Boston, Austin, and Durham are thriving and are home to a well-educated and innovative labor force. Cities that once were leading manufacturing centers lie at the other extreme, and are in decline. Between these two extremes lie many cities that could lean in either direction. The forces driving the divergence are at once both obvious to the eye and complex to grasp in their entirety, for they affect every aspect of life and not just the workplace.

Although it is tempting to focus solely on the high technology workforce, Prof. Moretti's analysis shows that there are many types of workers who thrive in the brain hubs. Workers who support "idea creators," such as engineers enjoy better prospects: carpenters, personal trainers, lawyers and doctors all fit this category. Moreover, the job creation effect that follows growth in the idea creator workforce is magnified substantially. Prof. Moretti finds that for every new "innovation" job in a city, fully five additional non-innovation jobs are created. These workers earn higher salaries than their counterparts elsewhere.

Prof. Moretti's findings are both significant and provocative; after all, in a networked society, geography should matter less, not more. Yet the evidence presented in The New Geography of Jobs paints a different picture. It also illuminates the challenges that face policy makers as they address the challenge of supporting brain hubs while limiting decline elsewhere.

Listen to the KQED interview:

Read more:
UC Berkeley NewsCenter's interview of Professor Moretti