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Workforce skills across the urban-rural hierarchy

  • Jaison R. Abel
  • Todd M. Gabe
  • Kevin Stolarick

This paper examines differences in the skill content of work throughout the United States, ranging from densely populated city centers to isolated and sparsely populated rural areas. To do so, we classify detailed geographic areas into categories along the entire urban-rural hierarchy. An occupation-based cluster analysis is then used to measure the types of skills available in the regional workforce, which allows for a broader measure of human capital than is captured by conventional measures. We find that the occupation clusters most prevalent in urban areas—scientists, engineers, and executives—are characterized by high levels of social and resource-management skills, as well as the ability to generate ideas and solve complex problems. By contrast, the occupation clusters that are most prevalent in rural areas—machinists, makers, and laborers—are among the lowest in terms of required skills. These differences in the skill content of work shed light on the pattern of earnings observed across the urban-rural hierarchy.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 552.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:552
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  1. Timothy R. Wojan, 2000. "The Composition of Rural Employment Growth in the “New Economy”," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(3), pages 594-605.
  2. Jaison R. Abel & Todd M. Gabe, 2008. "Human capital and economic activity in urban America," Staff Reports 332, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. David Mcgranahan & Timothy Wojan, 2007. "Recasting the Creative Class to Examine Growth Processes in Rural and Urban Counties," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(2), pages 197-216.
  4. Moretti, Enrico, 2004. "Estimating the social return to higher education: evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 175-212.
  5. Todd M. Gabe, 2009. "Knowledge And Earnings," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 439-457.
  6. Florida, Richard & Mellander, Charlotta & Stolarick, Kevin, 2007. "Inside the Black Box of Regional Development - human capital, the creative class and tolerance," Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation 88, Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies.
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