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Economy

Where Robots Are Doing Factory Jobs

Almost half are clustered in the Midwest and South.
The industrial robot penetration in U.S. metros between 2010 and 2015.
The industrial robot penetration in U.S. metros between 2010 and 2015.Brookings Institution

Automation. Depending on the angle from which you’re looking at the crystal ball, it’s either an imminent wave of large-scale labor force devastation or a slower, more muted change that society will seemlessly absorb—and perhaps even enjoy.

A recent paper by M.I.T’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo heats up that debate. The economists find that automation in the manufacturing industry has had quite adverse effects on employment and wages—and will continue to do so. While aspects of the study’s design and big-picture takeaways have been contested, this much is clear: robots have reshaped urban economies and labor markets—some more than others.