The New Geography of the Service Class
The service class is the largest class of all, employing more than 45 percent of American workers. Its members work in home health and elder care, they are lawn service providers, taxi drivers, and retail salespeople, food handlers and waiters, and people who perform routine clerical and administrative functions.
The map above charts the service class across U.S. metros, while the table below lists the top twenty. Las Vegas, in sixth place, is the only large metro to make the list. Smaller tourist destinations continue to top the list as they did in the original 1999 rankings. Myrtle Beach is first, with more than two-thirds of its jobs in the service class. It's followed by Ocean City and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Punta Gorda, Florida, all with more than 60 percent. Florida's Naples, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, and Sebastian-Vero Beach, as well as Barnstable, Massachusetts (Cape Cod) also make the list. But non-tourist destinations like Laredo, Brownsville, and McAllen, Texas, are present as well. Some of these communities not only have a large share of low-wage low-skilled jobs, but number among the least resilient and most vulnerable economies anywhere.
|Metro||Service Class Share|
|1.||Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC||64.9%|
|2.||Ocean City, NJ||62.7%|
|3.||Atlantic City, NJ||62.0%|
|4.||Punta Gorda, FL||60.9%|
|5.||Naples-Marco Island, FL||59.3%|
|6.||Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||59.1%|
|9.||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||57.3%|
|10.||Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL||57.2%|
|13.||Barnstable Town, MA||56.1%|
|15.||Panama City-Lynn Haven, FL||55.7%|
|18.||Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL||55.3%|
|19.||Norwich-New London, CT||55.0%|
The service class is both the largest (60 million workers) and the least paid of America’s three major social classes. The only way to improve its members’ prospects is to upgrade the work they perform—to make it more creative and hence more productive and remunerative. As I have written, that is the key task of a jobs strategy today, as well as being required to spur the demand required for broader economic recovery.
Ten years ago, in the original edition of The Rise of the Creative Class, I suggested that the new geography of class might be giving rise to a new form of socioeconomic segregation that is different from racial segregation or the old schism between central city and suburb, and perhaps even more threatening to national unity. Over the past decade and especially since the economic meltdown of 2008, this trend has only become more pronounced.
This post is an abridged and revised excerpt of material from The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, out this month from Basic Books.
Top image: Reuters/Chris Keane