However, local productivity growth also has important general equilibrium effects through worker mobility. We estimate that 38% of the overall increase in workers’ purchasing power occurs outside cities directly affected by local TFP growth. The indirect effects on worker earnings are substantially greater for more-skilled workers, due to greater geographic mobility of more-skilled workers, which increases inequality in other cities. Neglecting these general equilibrium effects would both understate the overall magnitude of benefits from productivity growth and misstate their distributional consequences.
Overall, US workers benefit substantially from productivity growth. Summing direct and indirect effects, we find that TFP growth from 1980 to 1990 increased purchasing power for the average US worker by 0.5-0.6% per year from 1980 to 2000. These gains do not depend on a worker’s education; rather, the benefits from productivity growth mainly depend on where workers live.