There’s an article in the New York Times which, as you will discern, does not surprise me at all but will no doubt come as a bolt from the blue to those who think that the U. S. can use all of the low-skill workers it can get. A recent study has found that large metropolitan areas no longer provide the advantages to low-skill workers that they once did:
For decades, workers migrated to big cities in America that promised abundant jobs and decent wages — in clerical offices in New York, at shipbuilding yards in Oakland, on auto assembly lines around Detroit.
Big, dense cities offered not just better pay for lower-skilled workers; cities offered them better kinds of jobs.
This is much less true today, as workers hurt by the decline in manufacturing know. Because of this, cities no longer offer low-skilled workers the economic advantages they once did, according to new analysis by the M.I.T. economist David Autor.
Workers, whether with a college degree or not, could long count on earning more in denser urban areas than in rural ones. Today, that pattern holds for highly educated workers — and has in fact grown much stronger. For workers without any college education, the added wage benefits of dense cities have mostly disappeared in Mr. Autor’s data…
I would add that I suspect that the economic advantage to highly dense cities does not hold for all workers with college educations but is mostly concentrated on workers with degrees in just a few fields but that’s just my suspicion.
I have one question and one observation about this. First, the question. Who are these low-skilled workers. I think there are several categories:
- Illegal immigrants
- The children of illegal immigrants
- The unskilled spouses of skilled legal immigrants
- Other legal immigrants sponsored by legal immigrants
- Some whites, particularly those from rural areas
And here’s the observation. The cost of these low-skill workers is higher in highly dense cities than in smaller cities or rural areas.
I’ll leave you with this thought from the cited article:
“People have lamented, ‘Well, all these areas that lost manufacturing, why don’t those workers just get up and go somewhere else?’” said Mr. Autor, who looked at wage data from the census and American Community Survey and recently presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association. “It’s just not at all obvious what that place is. It’s less obvious to me now than it was a month ago.”