Inequality in and across Cities

From a new article by Jessie Romero and Felipe F. Schwartzman at the Richmond Fed:

“Inequality in the United States has an important spatial component. More-skilled workers tend to live in larger cities where they earn higher wages. Less-skilled workers make lower wages and do not experience similar gains even when they live in those cities. This dynamic implies that larger cities are also more unequal. These relationships appear to have become more pronounced as inequality has increased. The evidence points to externalities among high-skilled workers as a significant contributor to those patterns.”

“A large body of research has identified several key facts about inequality across and within cities. First, larger cities have a greater concentration of high-skilled workers. In the Fifth District, for example, the share of the population over age twenty-five with a bachelor’s degree is 45 percent in the most urban areas, compared with 16 percent in the most rural areas. In the United States as a whole, the proportion ranges from 35 percent in the most urban areas to 17 percent in the most rural areas.”

“Second, nominal wages are higher in larger cities and in cities with a larger proportion of high-skilled workers. In the most urban areas of the Fifth District, average annual pay in 2016 was nearly $64,000; in the most rural areas, it was less than $35,000. Nationwide, workers in the most urban areas earned about $60,000 on average in 2016, while workers in the most rural areas earned about $36,000. (See Figure 2 above.) In recent research, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, Matthew Freedman, and Ronni Pavan find that nominal wages increase 0.065 percent for every percentage point increase in city size (based on data from 2005–07). They also find that the relationship between city size and wages has strengthened over time and that the wage gap between urban and rural areas has increased”


Posted by at 5:59 PM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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