Skills across the Urban–Rural Hierarchy


  • Jaison R. Abel,

  • Todd M. Gabe,

  • Kevin Stolarick

  • Jaison R. Abel is a Senior Economist in the Research and Statistics Group, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA. His e-mail address is Todd M. Gabe is a Professor in the School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA. His e-mail address is: Kevin Stolarick is the Research Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. His e-mail address is: The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve System, the University of Maine, or the University of Toronto.


This paper examines the vertical and horizontal dimensions of human capital across regions within the U.S., ranging from densely populated city centers to isolated and sparsely populated rural areas. To do so, we classify detailed geographic areas into categories along the entire urban–rural hierarchy. An occupation-based cluster analysis is then used to complement the conventional measure of human capital, based on college attainment, by measuring the types of skills available in the regional workforce. We find that differences in human capital across the urban–rural hierarchy are related to both the types of work performed in urban and rural areas and that a higher share of college-educated workers is present in urban areas regardless of the skills typically required to perform the job.