Jobs of the Future
WaPo Reporter Moves to Cow Town, Keeps Job

Christopher Ingraham, a data and economics writer at the Washington Post, has a charming piece about his decision to move to a Red Lake County, Minnesota—a rural area he had labeled “the absolute worst place to live in America” in an article last summer. Ingraham, who currently lives with his wife and children in a small rowhouse in Baltimore and spends 90 minutes commuting to D.C. every morning, visited Red Lake County after corresponding with Minnesotans who took issue with his original piece. Immediately taken by the people and the scenery—and by the promise of a much larger house, a much lower cost of living, and an infinitely shorter commute—he eventually decided to move there with his family:

When I get to Red Lake County this spring, I’ll still be doing what I do now — writing on data — just remotely. The most important tools of my trade, after all, are a phone line and a good Internet connection. You can download arcane government datasets — like that natural amenities index — just as well from Minnesota as from D.C.

That fact that I’m incredibly fortunate to be in this position isn’t lost on me. Many of my fellow commuters on that train — the doctors and construction workers and the retail managers — don’t have the luxury of doing their work from anywhere. For the time being, at least, they’re forced to make an all-too familiar trade-off.

Needless to say, Ingraham probably wouldn’t have been able to move halfway across the country while holding on to his job at the Post 20 or even 10 years ago. But in the future, more and more people are going to have this type of opportunity—to move somewhere inexpensive, with a great environment for raising children, while keeping that well-paying knowledge worker job at a company based in a major city. Telework is on the rise in America and around the world, and it is even coming into reach for new professions, like medicine, that were once seen as exclusively hands-on.

This is a very good thing. It’s good for rural and exurban economies, it creates more choices for workers, and it offers a path for millennials to get closer to the American Dream even cost of living in the coastal cities goes through the roof. A more geographically dispersed professional population could even have de-polarizing effects on our politics, by easing the sorting process that creates ghettoized Democratic supermajorities (supported by young people, professionals, and the childless) in big urban areas, and Republican supermajorities (supported by married people and the white working class) outside of them. Our society should be looking for more ways—regulatory, technological, social—to make these choices easier for people.

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