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The Geography of Remote Work

Institute Working Paper 43 | Revised August 19, 2021

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Lukas Althoff Princeton University
Fabian Eckert University of California, San Diego
Sharat Ganapati Georgetown University
Conor Walsh Columbia Business School
The Geography of Remote Work


We show that cities with higher population density specialize in high-skill service jobs that can be done remotely. The urban and industry bias of remote work potential shaped the recent pandemic’s economic impact. Many high-skill service workers started to work remotely, withdrawing spending from big-city consumer service industries dependent on their demand. As a result, low-skill service workers in big cities bore most of the recent pandemic’s economic impact. Our findings have broader implications for the distributional consequences of the U.S. economy’s transition to more remote work.

This paper previously circulated with the title "The City Paradox: Skilled Services and Remote Work."