Book Review: The New Geography of Jobs

The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti is a book that informs its readers where the “hot” technology jobs are and details the benefits to those communities that are fortunate enough to become a “technology hub.”

So, “location, location,” is not just important in real estate but also in the job market.  Relocating is much more common today than ever before. The idea of relocation reminded me of the great migrations that have occurred in society. The California Gold Rush between 1848 and 1855,  the Great African American Migration between 1910 and 1970 from the southern United States to other parts of the country, and other social and political movements have caused waves of human beings to completely uproot themselves for what they hoped or believed will be greener, safer, or more economically stable pastures.

However, Moretti looks beyond the urgent needs of just a safe place to live to focus on a deliberate migration that draws people to one city or community based upon shared interests and goals. The American narrative has been much the same since foreigners discovered its existence. Today, the opportunity to become a “heavy hitter” is still a big motivator, and the playing field has greatly improved. Yesterday, the innovators and risk takers were Edison, Ford, and Firestone; now it’s Gates, Musk, Zuckerberg, and the Kardashians.

Moretti also addresses the growing separation and segregation of society as like-minded individuals cluster together, creating new communities and new economic possibilities. In this respect, innovators are like magnets. Whether it’s Silicon Valley or another tech hub, their presence in the community draws others who add to or help grow the industry.  These hubs then attract others who support the innovators by building infrastructure around these communities.

As the innovators prosper so do the communities at large.  Even those without a four-year degree can make a better living wage.  According to Moretti, the ripple effect does not stop there but has social implications as well.  With the influx of people to help support these innovators, the dating pool also increases. Who knew that Bill Gates could actually be indirectly responsible for hundreds of couples in wedded bliss?

In yesterday’s economy, an average Joe or Jane could expect to get a good paying job in well-paying industries like manufacturing, oil and gas, or construction just down the street or in the neighboring town. But in order to find these jobs in this economy, you have to go where the action is — literally.  And this may require you to move again and again. This is the new look of the middle class. For most, gone are the days of a family owning the same home, traditionally a house, and passing it along through the family line.  Rather, the newer generation may view the home as a place of purpose and not as a family tradition. It could be used to leverage new ventures or sold to provide startup monies for a move into a completely different direction.

What happens to those who either can’t or are not willing to move to explore other avenues?  Will there always be the poor? Yes. But do you have to be among them? Moretti lays out some guidelines for avoiding debtor’s prison, such as education. With a four-year degree in one of the in-demand fields and placing yourself within arm’s reach of the job market — or to use Moretti’s term, where the market is “thick” — you greatly increase your chances of obtaining the career you desire and the income that will give you a comfortable living. This is the New American dream.

Written by Cynthia Payton.

The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti can be found in the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s book collection. View availability via the online catalog.