Enrico Moretti, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds the Michael Peevey and Donald Vial Career Development Chair in Labor Economics. His research interests include Labor Economics, Urban Economics and Applied Econometrics. His new book, THE NEW GEOGRAPHY OF JOBS, is now available in bookstores.

Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.

Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Milan, Italy where my parents still live. After college, I came to the US for graduate school, planning to study environmental science. I wanted to become a wildlife biologist. Economics quickly caught my attention, and ultimately I switched. In 2000, I obtained a doctorate in Economics. My first academic job was at UCLA. In LA, I spent four wonderful years, and I still miss what I consider one the great American cities. Later, I got a job offer from Berkeley, and moved to the Bay Area. I live in San Francisco with my wife and son. I had visiting positions at Columbia and Stanford.

What is your book “THE NEW GEOGRAPHY OF JOBS” all about?

If you look at the economic map of America today, you do not see one country — you see three increasingly different countries. On one hand there are cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Raleigh or Austin, with a strong innovation-based economy and workers who are the most creative and best paid on the planet. At the other extreme are former manufacturing centers like Detroit, Flint or Cleveland, where jobs and salaries are plummeting. In the middle, there is the rest of America, apparently undecided on which direction to take.

The difference between the three Americas was small in the 1980’s and has been growing ever since. My book explores this new geography of jobs, and especially its root causes and what it means for our country.

Talk to us about “innovation economy” and its significance.

For all the talk about outsourcing, employment in innovation is growing, and it is growing much faster than the rest of the labor market. Remarkably, this means more jobs not only for high tech workers, but also for workers outside high tech. The reason is that innovative companies support a growing number of jobs outside high tech in the communities where they are located, and many of these jobs are for workers with a high school education or less. Attracting a scientist or a software engineer to a city triggers a multiplier effect, increasing employment and salaries for those who provide local services. My research, shows that for each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created in local services, both in professional occupations (lawyers, architects and nurses) and in non-professional ones (waiters, hairdressers, carpenters and security guards).

This is the real reason why the innovation economy matters to all of us.

Any upcoming projects or initiatives you would like to discuss?

Serious academic economists are not supposed to write books for the general public — they are supposed to write technical papers. Indeed, writing such papers has been my main concern for the past fifteen years. Economics as a field does not reward popular writing, unlike some other academic disciplines. There are many good reasons for this, but after spending fifteen years doing research on questions at the intersection of labor and urban economics, I developed an increasing desire to reach a larger audience than the one that reads my technical papers. This is why I ended up writing this book. It turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. Now I am back doing my day job: teaching and doing research. In some serendipitous way, spending a year looking at the big picture gave me a lot of new ideas for future research, and I can’t wait to start writing papers again.

So what do you teach at Stanford?

In my visiting year at Stanford, I thought a class in “The Economics of Cities”. It has been a wonderful experience – I met several very smart and curious students. In this respect, Stanford and Berkeley are very similar.

What are your leisure time activities?

Biking and running with my friends. Backpacking and  bird-watching, when I can. And, most of all, spending time with my family, exploring nearby neighborhoods and faraway cities.

Prof. Enrico Morettiâs book, THE NEW GEOGRAPHY OF JOBS.