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Businesses Education Stats The Almighty Buck United States

Why Some Cities Get All the Good Jobs (chicagotribune.com) 226

New submitter Ericmesrr writes with a link to a Bloomberg story (as carried by the ChicagoTribune) about geographic trends in job creation in the U.S, from which he excerpts this quote from U.C Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti: "A handful of cities with the 'right' industries and a solid base of human capital keep attracting good employers and offering high wages, while those at the other extreme, cities with the 'wrong' industries and a limited human capital base, are stuck with dead-end jobs and low average wages. This divide I will call it the Great Divergence has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents' levels of education. Cities with many college-educated workers started attracting even more, and cities with a less educated workforce started losing ground."
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Why Some Cities Get All the Good Jobs

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  • Technology Paradox (Score:5, Interesting)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @09:21AM (#51518511)

    I find this trend quite strange as well. In the late 90s everyone was going on about how technology would allow us to work from anywhere so we could spread out around the country. Things like cramming into an urban area, and flying to conferences were going to become unnecessary.

    Instead what I've observed is that the rise of 'thinking' jobs, which only require a desk, have made it more and more viable for people to live in concentrated urban centres. Contrast this with industrial jobs where you needed large amounts of land for a factory which naturally led to suburban developments. Similarly the rise of cheap air travel has raised the expectation that you'll just turn up at a conference, so I find I have to attend more now.

    I think this trend will continue until driverless cars are ubiquitous. These will open up huge amounts of land around urban centres (it will be like adding tube lines everywhere), and will probably cause a significant decline in central city density as people are freed from existing rent/transport monopolies.

    • The thing is, unless a company is paying very differently depending on your location, they'd rather have you work where everyone else is, unless the company has no office whatsoever. Thinking jobs are remote sometimes, but they really are remote when there's scarcity, and that's not at the beginning of careers. And after you start your career somewhere, to work 'out there' you have to want to move.

      I for one am working remote for a Bay area company, but that's because I have skills in demand, a lot of experi

      • Remote does not offer the communication bandwidth that being on site does. An experienced person can get around this because a lot of context has already been built up and they often don't require as much chit chat. Newbies though? Another story.

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        Yeah.... What I've found is in many cases, a company feels compelled to justify the money it's shelling out on leasing its office space. EG. Where I work now, they have a pretty "prime" street address in a major city and I don't think they want to give that up, since it helps from a marketing standpoint. (People see the physical address and know we must at least be somewhat successful....)

        But upper management seems to find it painful to let too many people work from home (even though 90% of the time you can

    • No it wont. Politics. Every facet of American politics revolve around a battle between rural vs urban. It's all about the votes.

      • You seem to be under the impression that people's votes have some influence on who rules over us. Money is power, and those who have it get what they want (more), and the rest of us are screwed. Elections are held periodically to perpetuate the illusion of democracy. No one's vote that is unaccompanied by a check is worth the paper it's marked on.

        • You're just using cynicism as an excuse for laziness. The topic here is cities, so state and local votes certainly make a difference. Especially in states where ballot initiatives and voter referendums are an active part of the political process.
        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          You seem to be under the impression that people's votes have some influence on who rules over us. Money is power, and those who have it get what they want (more), and the rest of us are screwed. Elections are held periodically to perpetuate the illusion of democracy. No one's vote that is unaccompanied by a check is worth the paper it's marked on.

          Lets see what happens in this primary. If you ignore the primaries, you allow the wealthy to choose the candidates on both "sides", so of course you're screwed. But Bernie is doing well, and Trump is doing well (he may be rich himself, and his sanity is dubious, but he's not at all aligned with the current DC/donor establishment).

          American democracy is all about the primaries.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I'm pretty much on the same page as you; the idea that we'd all be contractors telecommuting from any old place ignored a lot of things about people and organizations, including the fact that people have a life outside of work that makes a big difference inside of work. It ignores things like job and investor networking, which of course can be done on social media and LinkedIn, but the fact that so many people are doing that only makes face time that much more of a competitive advantage. Do not underestim

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      The problem with "work from anywhere" is that only a small percentage of the workforce can be effective working remotely. Many (probably most) aren't able to communicate and stay focused when working remotely, so management insists on having everyone in the cubical farm together.

      Having a skilled workforce and jobs in an urban center helps both the employer find staff and the employee find jobs. I don't see that going away anytime soon. Driverless cars won't have any impact, it really doesn't matter to mos

      • The problem with "work from anywhere" is that only a small percentage of the workforce can be effective working remotely. Many (probably most) aren't able to communicate and stay focused when working remotely, so management insists on having everyone in the cubical farm together.

        Statistics, please?

        • Wouldn't surprise me if it were true, but I doubt someone who doesn't spell cubicle properly is going to or is willing to produce them
        • He doesn't need to provide statistics to back that assertion, and it doesn't even need to be true.

          The only thing that matters is that companies have been shying away from remote work (rather than adopting or allowing more of it). So even if their reasoning is faulty or the underlying premise (that too many people are unable to communicate and stay focused) is incorrect, it's irrelevant: perception is the only thing that matters, not reality.

      • I don't think cheap and available driverless cars are apipe dream, but I do think it will not be available in any Slashdotter's working lifetime so its a bit of a moot point unless we want to pontificate on life more than 50 years from now.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I find this trend quite strange as well. In the late 90s everyone was going on about how technology would allow us to work from anywhere so we could spread out around the country. Things like cramming into an urban area, and flying to conferences were going to become unnecessary.

      This happened, except that instead of the jobs going to Kearney, Nebraska, they went to Bangalore, India, when management sorted out they could amplify the savings by hiring even cheaper workers in even cheaper locations.

    • I think this trend will continue until driverless cars are ubiquitous. These will open up huge amounts of land around urban centres (it will be like adding tube lines everywhere),

      What? No, no it will not. Trains have massively higher densities than automobiles. They only work economically when you have lots of passengers, but when you do, they transport them far more efficiently than do cars.

      and will probably cause a significant decline in central city density as people are freed from existing rent/transport monopolies.

      It will be nice to let the car commute for you, but it's no substitute for not having a commute.

    • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @11:23AM (#51519339)
      I think you greatly underestimate the value of creating large pools of talent in a single location. It is true that an individual can succeed on his own, working virtually in support of a company or himself. However, when you live in a community of similar talent, there's a sharpening effect - people coming together, sharing ideas, supporting one another, and ultimately, creating new businesses together. It's not impossible for this to happen virtually, but it is much easier when people are close to one another, able to do this informally whether over coffee, dinner, drink or just hanging out - essentially living life together. Proximity allows for much more rapid and deeper networking so that when those new ideas emerge, it's much easier to find and recruit the talent you need. Finally, when you have concentrated pools like this, you begin to develop secondary infrastructure that makes doing business in that area all that much more attractive - venture capital all the way down to better coffee.

      I get you on the whole driverless car and hyperloop thing, but people really are very localized, and unless you can make both so fast that the thought of going to another city for drinks is no different a time and energy commitment than going to the bar a couple blocks away, it's not going to really work.
    • You nailed it.

      I remember when there was a "buzz" about how the internet would allow technology workers to work from anywhere, etc; And yes, I've known devs who have worked from their rural locations far from urban areas. In my experience however, the only time its ok for someone to work remotely is if they are in a country with a significantly reduced payscale than the US...

      However, as you say, what has come to pass is the concentration of tech workers in a few urban hotspots.
      Sad, but ultimately t
    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Need better tools for telecommuting, primarily group level brainstorming.

      10 minutes bouncing back and forth on an IM
      5 minutes talking on the phone
      Walk over to their cube and in 10 seconds fully understand the issue.

      There is a lot of information that is lost when not in person.
    • Similarly the rise of cheap air travel has raised the expectation that you'll just turn up at a conference, so I find I have to attend more now.

      That's strange, I've seen the exact opposite. I used to get sent to a bunch of conferences right around 2000, before the dot-com implosion. After that bubble burst, I never got sent to another conference.

      Air travel cost isn't the problem, it's the cost of the conference itself. I remember the tickets for those conferences costing $2500 each, back in 2000. Throw

    • That makes it sound like driverless cars will be a disaster. We will have a nightmare ahead of us already when it comes time to clean up after the last century of suburban sprawl - why on earth would we want to double down on disaster by encouraging even more of it?

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      It turns out there is a large amount of slippage when people work remotely. Nothing is more efficient than face-to-face communications. Direct communications is a central tenant of the Agile processes, which why I do not think it ever really works with large far-flung projects.

  • The author's (Moretti) own most dramatic example of a few people in a key moment completely transforming a metropolis was when two local boys Paul and Bill) moved their startup from Albuquerque to Seattle in 1979. Today, the tech hub that is Seattle is well known, and Albuquerque [krqe.com] is topping lists like this.

    It's pretty straight forward. Places with established infrastructure in related industries tend to attract start ups and industry leaders alike.

    Major industries rely on scores of subcontractors and anc

    • This has been going on for centuries ask the steel workers of Sheffield (What's left of them), the tailors of Savel Row or the Glass workers of Venice. Strangely nowhere is synonymous with the quality of it's Lawyers. Funny that.
    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Places with established infrastructure in related industries tend to attract start ups and industry leaders alike.

      The only reason that Microsoft got started in Albuquerque is that the company owner of the Altair computer insisted that Paul and Bill come from Harvard to work on Microsoft Basic under his supervision. The two local boys were from Seattle. When the contract was over, they went home and built out their company. Seattle didn't become a tech hub until after Microsoft became big enough to affect the local economy.

  • Kids (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @09:27AM (#51518531)

    Awe, thats cute.

    You've just discovered something thats been happening since civilization started.

    Cities rise and fall based on their usefulness at the time, not your nostalgic feelings about them.

    The universe does not play favorites and isn't a fanboy, it doesn't artificially prop up things that should cease to exist, like worthless cities.

    Its not just American cities, its all cities, across the entire world.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Cities rise and fall based on their usefulness at the time, not your nostalgic feelings about them.

      I bet Paris has profited considerably from nostalgic feelings over the last couple of centuries.

      • I bet Paris has profited considerably from nostalgic feelings over the last couple of centuries.

        That is kind of hilarious. Paris has been a city/encampment since around 9800 BC. It was nostalgia before nostalgia was a thing.

    • Except that cities have higher productivity than non-urban areas and it seems mostly proportional to size and density: http://www.citylab.com/work/20... [citylab.com] . Not to mention that many of us enjoy the quality of life found in cities compared to suburban or rural areas - YMMV.
    • Cities rise and fall based on their usefulness at the time, not your nostalgic feelings about them.

      It's not just their usefulness, but also their political power and ability to engage in rent seeking. That is, a large part of the wealth of cities is not due to their contributions to society and the economy, but their ability to impose costs on the rest of the country and create trade barriers and monopolies protecting their interests. That's also nothing new; Adam Smith already discusses these mechanisms

  • Remote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @09:28AM (#51518541)
    An even better question is why things seem to work so well working remotely from India, yet no one can work remotely from across the country.
    • Maybe it's non-Euclidan geometry?

      No, the real issue is that no employer wants their employees remote - communication still just isn't that good. But if the board says outsource, you outsource. And you keep the few you can still see around you in an even tighter grip.

    • Remote working from India doesn't work well. The end result is a disaster in quality of the product. But it is a CHEAP disaster. MBA types like cheap (except for themselves).
      • by invid ( 163714 )

        Remote working from India doesn't work well. The end result is a disaster in quality of the product. But it is a CHEAP disaster. MBA types like cheap (except for themselves).

        I've had friends who sent software projects to India that were complete loses, years spent on software that turned out to be completely unusable. Since it was relatively cheap it didn't break their companies, but it would have been better if they had spent more locally and got working products.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Remote working from India doesn't work well. The end result is a disaster in quality of the product. But it is a CHEAP disaster. MBA types like cheap (except for themselves).

          I've had friends who sent software projects to India that were complete loses, years spent on software that turned out to be completely unusable. Since it was relatively cheap it didn't break their companies, but it would have been better if they had spent more locally and got working products.

          lol. You two are obviously ignorant tards. If you had an MBA, like me, you'd know why the cheaper option was the better option. I don't need a "working product" to get a big raise. I only need a good press release and numbers in the black on the day the press release comes out. As a wise man once said "Delivery has nothing to do with the delivery business. Image, people, image! Scope out this new ad." If you had an MBA, which you don't, you'd know that business isn't about selling things to consumers only t

          • If you had an MBA, like me, you'd know why the cheaper option was the better option. I don't need a "working product" to get a big raise. I only need a good press release and numbers in the black on the day the press release comes out. As a wise man once said "Delivery has nothing to do with the delivery business. Image, people, image! Scope out this new ad."

            This actually is the way things work at a lot of places. I remember a couple of years ago when I was talking with one of the front-office folks a
          • 100% correct. And so many of the end results don't really need to work anyway, because they are for government subcontracts or other projects that actually don't have to work, except for billing hours.
    • The execs see the remote workers still worth the 1/10 to 1/100 salary in India worth the remote. They don't think "remote workers" in the US, who still cost almost as much, worth it. If remote workers in the USA would work for the average India-based software engineer wage of around 11K USD [glassdoor.com] then IBM would hire here in the US again LOL. All we have to do in the USA is be willing to work for $6-$7 an hour!
      • So instead they try to hire people where you need $100K/year for a comfortable living, rather than hire where you need $50K/year, and complain how expensive people are.
      • No, people might actually do that.

        In India, $5/hr is a decent salary for a software engineer.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      That is really what the end game for "work remotely from across the country" is going to be for the factory owners. They still need humans for now and want the cheapest workers who can be replaced if they get expensive.
      Its about low cost, union free, interchangeable workers until robotics can be used for more and more in any nation.
      What needs to be kept in the USA? A few people with security clearances for the no bid contracts or US only paperwork, lawyers and public relations.
      If a product needs to be
    • Well said.
  • Local resources (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @10:00AM (#51518691) Homepage

    Most American cities were established based on a local resource: mining, hydro-power, farming, railroad junctions, or a harbor. So many northeast cities declined when the manufacturing tied to those resources moved on. The same thing with the midwest steel towns, and the further midwest railroad towns. Look at some of the boomtowns of the last 30 years. What local resources do most cities in Texas have, or Las Vegas, or Silicon Valley? They basically have nice climates, and the ability to quickly support a new population of people.

    The American economy is much less based on manufacturing now, so the jobs can go anywhere. Even a large manufacturer no longer needs 5000 people working in one valley because the river provided the power, the mines provided the ore, and the railroad provided the transportation. They can move that factory to New Mexico because trucks and rail can bring it all in and out. The tech companies can go absolutely anywhere. The only resource they are tied to is the educated workforce, which I agree with the article is a self-manifesting destiny. Success brings more success, and the opposite happens at less fortunate cities.

    • What local resources do most cities in Texas have, or Las Vegas, or Silicon Valley? They basically have nice climates, and the ability to quickly support a new population of people.

      Wrong. You've obviously never spent a summer in Las Vegas (or Phoenix, which has basically the same climate). 120F is not a "nice climate".

      The only thing Las Vegas has going for it is gambling: before the Indian reservations got involved in gambling, Vegas was the nearest place people from Los Angeles could go to go gambling.

  • Eventually, people will outsmart themselves. This will likely affect management roles first, as management is currently based on employee metrics. With current technology, people working remote, working flexible hours, etc. Workers are less likely to interact with management, so management has had to rely on metrics to judge employee productivity. Hence AI will likely replace managers first. This would correlate to robots replacing physical work done by people. Soon, people will be primarily working where
    • Soon? When is this "AI" going to come? So far we haven't seen anything close to AI, even though we have been working on it for decades.
    • so then I just need to login and space out at my desk and be ranked as a good worker and not have to deal with the 6 bosses.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Eventually, people will outsmart themselves. This will likely affect management roles first, as management is currently based on employee metrics. With current technology, people working remote, working flexible hours, etc. Workers are less likely to interact with management, so management has had to rely on metrics to judge employee productivity. Hence AI will likely replace managers first.

      Only middle management, if at all. Low level management will still be needed to interface with employees and basic customer (internal or external) contact. Middle management would be replaced by the AI which sends the reporting and metrics straight to the upper management, who will of course have their own AI to interpret these metrics for them so they can spend more time on "business" golf outings and "working lunches".

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      With current technology, people working remote, working flexible hours, etc. Workers are less likely to interact with management,

      So how does management know that they are real workers? Perhaps they are a few instances of code writing AI hosted on some cloud service. Each with its own phony name and social security number, cranking out code and collecting a salary.

  • start ups need people of different backgrounds to work together. in a lot of places people hate anyone of a different color, name, nationality, who they have sex with, etc. only a small number of people are "normal". so all the mutants left to the cities to make money
    • start ups need people of different backgrounds to work together. in a lot of places people hate anyone of a different color, name, nationality, who they have sex with, etc. only a small number of people are "normal". so all the mutants left to the cities to make money

      Did you start your day with diversity training ;-) I'd love to see the citations behind your reasoning

  • So, should some businesses be forced to move to other cities to even things out?

  • If you want to grow the economy in your town simply raise taxes and improve services, especially schools. Better schools, roads, concert halls, etc attracts those who are willing/able to pay more for those amenities. These tend to be those who can drive an economy due to higher incomes. This is not new: kids have been leaving the farm for opportunities/higher wages in the city for centuries. Now the economy is a broad thing and how that effects individuals is very uneven. If you have less competitive
  • by hashish16 ( 1817982 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @01:00PM (#51520225)
    Why does California have all the tech job? It is because non-compete clause are difficult to impose which allows talented individuals to roam around the industry. NAFTA took away the manufacturing jobs, but the high tech jobs are all still here, and they are concentrated in California mainly because of one piece of legislation: Edwards v. Arthur Andersen.
  • Why Some Cities Get All the Good Jobs

    Follow the money...

    (then.... follow the weather)

  • This divide — I will call it the Great Divergence — has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents' levels of education.

    Mandatory high school is great, but is not enough. College should be mandatory.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This divide — I will call it the Great Divergence — has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents' levels of education.

      Mandatory high school is great, but is not enough. College should be mandatory.

      High school isn't mandatory. It is effectively required for many jobs, but not mandatory.

      Frog-marching people through "education" isn't a solution. It is actually part of the problem. It used to be that only people who were motivated by a desire to be educated completed college. It is no surprise that such people went on to be successful.

      The response has been to interpret a college degree as the cause of success. Thus, people who are motivated by the desire to make money go to college, regardless of their d

  • And what about the politics of buying legislators? Primo example: Boeing moving its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, and based on media reports, it was pretty openly about getting tax breaks from the city council.

    And how about the companies that move to break their unions? Hell, the steel plant my father worked at in the fifties ran away to the South for just that reason, along with cheaper labor.

                      mark

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