Where the Good Jobs Are

People are interested, of course, not just in jobs but in good jobs, which is very reasonable, and that I think drives a lot of the anxiety about trade and technological change. So it’s worth taking a look at Brookings’ compilation of Census data about median wages in 2009 (we’re still waiting for the 2010 data to be fully processed) that will let us see where the median workers or the low-wage workers are finding the highest wages. I’m going to present the lists without comment, but I will note this: Many of these metropolitan areas are places where the “cost of living” is unusually high. That means the real living standards of a low-wage or median-wage worker in the Boston area may not be as high as a naive look at the numbers would suggest. At the same time, it’s not as if firms in high cost of living places are running charities where they say “hey, San Jose is expensive so lets be nice and raise wages.” The people doing these jobs are generating enough economic value to their employers to justify high wages; if other aspects of policy are then clawing back their disposable income, that’s a problem but it doesn’t mean the wages are an illusion:

Alternatively, we can look at wages in the 10th percentile: