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Geographies of Low-Income Jobs: The concentration of low-income jobs, the knowledge economy and labor market polarization in Sweden, 1990-2018


  • von Borries, Alvaro

    (CIRCLE, Lund University)

  • Grillitsch, Markus

    (CIRCLE, Lund University)

  • Lundquist, Karl-Johan

    (CIRCLE, Lund University)


In this paper we explore the (changing) spatial concentration of low-income jobs throughout the last 30 years in Sweden, a period that has been characterized by the rise of what has become known as the knowledge economy. In particular, we describe (map) and try to understand what drives the concentration of low-income jobs in certain regions and how that has changed in time. We observe an overall decrease of the prevalence of low-income jobs during the last three decades. Moreover, regions have also converged, meaning that the great differentiator between places is less and less about how many low-income jobs they host, but how many very well paid there are. We also find that labor market polarization does not seem to lead to a greater incidence of low-income jobs when measured against a threshold related to the national income distribution, but, as expected, it does when we move towards a regional threshold, thus accounting for regional income differences. Finally, regions with a larger knowledge economy have tended to have a lower incidence of low-income jobs, both measured with respect to the national and to the regional income. This points towards the knowledge economy being a source of regional prosperity either through the upgrading of jobs or rising the wages of low- income workers. Despite all the discourse about the degradation of the Nordic model, we provide some evidence for it to be still working in Sweden under this new and complex knowledge-dominated era.

Suggested Citation

  • von Borries, Alvaro & Grillitsch, Markus & Lundquist, Karl-Johan, 2022. "Geographies of Low-Income Jobs: The concentration of low-income jobs, the knowledge economy and labor market polarization in Sweden, 1990-2018," Papers in Innovation Studies 2022/4, Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lucirc:2022_004

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    low-income jobs; regional development; inequality; knowledge economy; labor market polarization;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • P25 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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