Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm vs. factory, bucolic green fields vs. densely packed streets: from Green Acres to The Simple Life, America's urban-rural divide has been an enduring axis of the nation's culture. Today, with less than one percent of people employed on farms, what is the underlying source of that divide?

 Urban centers tend to specialize in knowledge-based work, with high concentrations of scientists, technicians, engineers, and executives. When it comes to pay, the closer to the city center a job cluster is, the higher the pay.
 Rural areas have larger concentrations of Machinists and Makers, which generally require less skill and receive lower salaries. Jobs with the highest skill requirements -- engineers, executives, scientists, and analysts -- were noticeably underrepresented in rural areas and were far below national averages.

It is particularly interesting to note the absence of social skills—e.g., coordination, persuasion, and negotiation—in the most rural areas, which are places where extensive interaction and face-to-face contact are hindered by the obstacles of isolation and distance.

America's urban-rural divide may no longer reflect the difference between farms and factories, but it continues to turn on the very real differences in the types of work people do.

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