Urban Interactions: Soft Skills Versus Specialization

Posted: 17 Mar 2009

See all articles by Marigee Bacolod

Marigee Bacolod

Naval Postgraduate School

Bernardo Blum

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

William C. Strange

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: March 2009

Abstract

This article considers the role of soft skills in cities and industry clusters. It begins by specifying a model of agglomeration economies where soft skills allow agents to interact more productively. The model exposes two conflicting forces: agglomeration allows opportunities to interact, but it also produces thick, specialized markets, and this specialization can be a substitute for interaction. In order to empirically evaluate the soft skills—agglomeration relationship, the article matches data on the interaction requirements of occupations from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles to Census data. The within-industry average level of soft skills is found to be higher in cities but not in industry clusters. Workers at the top of the skill distribution in large cities typically have higher levels of soft skills than in small cities, while the least skilled workers are less skilled in large cities than in small cities. This pattern is reversed for industry clusters.

Keywords: soft skills, skill distribution, agglomeration

JEL Classification: J24, J31, R12, R23

Suggested Citation

Bacolod, Marigee and Blum, Bernardo and Strange, William C., Urban Interactions: Soft Skills Versus Specialization (March 2009). Journal of Economic Geography, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 227-262, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1360042 or http://dx.doi.org/lbn057

Marigee Bacolod (Contact Author)

Naval Postgraduate School ( email )

555 Dyer Road
Monterey, CA 93943
United States

Bernardo Blum

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

William C. Strange

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/%7Ewstrange/

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