The Brookings Institution has produced an interesting report about “the Advanced Industries Sector,” the 50 industries that spend higher amounts in research and development and focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs. It categorizes these into three broader categories: manufacturing, services, and energy. On a global level, the report concludes the United States is falling behind in these areas.
The Seattle metropolitan area — with our combination of aerospace, maritime, manufacturing, tech, and research clusters — has the second largest concentration of advanced industry jobs in the country. Moreover, Seattle is one of only 14 major metro areas that are strong in the manufacturing and service categories — 16% of the region’s workers are employed in the advanced industries, well above the 9% national average. Aerospace and software publishing jobs account for half of this local figure.
Brookings views these industries as important drivers of economic growth; they directly or indirectly support nearly a quarter of the nation’s workers and account for 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product. These industries are primarily concentrated in urban areas. Even when adjusting for education, experience, and the gender differentials, wages are higher for advanced industry workers, less than half of whom have a bachelor’s degree.
While some of these 50 industries are not ones that are appropriate or desirable for Seattle (like fossil fuel industries), we should be actively supporting many others. As we seek equitable growth and living wages for all our residents, it seems we should be paying close attention to fostering jobs that provide both. That also means, though, that we pay closer attention to the gender and racial profile of this workforce, an analysis the Brookings report fails to include. Seattle has an infamously high gender pay gap, due in part to the under-representation of women in some of these higher-paying industries.
Further, we need to continue to improve and fund our public education system through college, as a rising percentage of these jobs are going to individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree. The job opportunities for those with lower levels of education are decreasing in number.
One more significant reason to pay attention to this report: among its many recommendations, it includes a call to expand access to high-quality early education.