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A variety of economic forces—most prominently, globalization and automation—have reduced the availability of middle-class jobs. This has contributed to a stagnation in real wages and a decline in upward mobility for millions of workers, particularly those without a college degree.

Started by former Brookings Senior Fellow Marcela Escobari (now assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development) in 2018 and now led by Brookings Fellow Greg Wright, the Workforce of the Future initiative produces research and online tools to diagnose and counter these trends.

At the core of the initiative is a body of research that uncovers local economic growth strategies to create high-wage jobs in fast-growing sectors of the economy. The research—most recently described in the initiative’s 2021 report, Moving Up—puts a spotlight on who is falling behind, where, and by how much. It also identifies career pathways that should be expanded to improve economic opportunity for those being left behind.

This research informs the initiative’s Job Mobility and Smart Growth Toolkit, a set of data-driven online tools to guide the growth strategies of policymakers and companies. The centerpiece of the Toolkit is the Smart Growth: Cities tool, which helps local economic development officials choose a successful growth strategy and then provides a detailed analysis of the workforce implications of that strategy.

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