mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Jobs of the Future
Doctors and Lawyers and Bankers, Oh My!

Is the new economy the same as the old economy? Investigative journalist David Cay Johnson breaks down job growth numbers at AlJazeera America (h/t Tyler Cowen). From 2000 to 2012, what Johnson calls prosperous-class jobs captured “76.9 percent of the total real wage increase.” These jobs have also grown at a rate ten times faster than either higher or lower paying jobs. What are they?

Many of them serve the rich, not as household help but as managers of wealth: accountants, bankers, investment advisers, lawyers, business managers and money managers.

Others work in the fast-growing medical field, spurred by an aging population and new technologies. In 2012 the median pay—half make more, half less—for general surgeons was $187,200, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For dentists the median was $145,240, a little less than pediatricians and nurses specializing in anesthesiology.

Median wages of petroleum engineers hit $130,280, reflecting the sophisticated skills needed to find and extract oil and natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface.

Doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers: In other words, the same jobs that have always done well—there are just more of them now. Johnson, noting that many of these jobs require higher mental capabilities and lots of education, worries that large swathes of Americans will be left behind as this shift continues.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Wealthy (and even middle class!) Americans aren’t just spending their money on legal or medical services provided by traditional high-prestige earners. We’ve also seen men and women working lower-skilled service jobs make very respectable salaries—and many families have shown themselves willing to train up domestic service workers to higher levels of skills and specialization. Even dog walkers can make a good buck in the growing service industry.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Anthony

    “Doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers….” Can a polarization of the labor force be inferred? Corollary question: is our market system (or has our market system eroded) eroding fundamental values?

  • FriendlyGoat

    Everybody can be dog walkers——OF COURSE. Eureka! The answer has been found for the difficulties of millions of Americans! You can pay your $145,000 dentist walking the doggies!

  • lukelea

    Right. The middle two-thirds of our population is being shafted by current trade and immigration policies in the new laissez faire global economy. That, and failure to adopt new statutory limits on the length of the working day to compensate for the never-ending stream of new labor-saving technologies. All three trends work in favor of the interests of those whose income is derived from capital, including the educated brains of the minority with significantly above-average cognitive abilities (i.e., human capital). Our meritocracy is not a democracy. It is is new aristocracy. Shame on those who let it happen.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service