The economic convergence of U.S. regions has slowed greatly, and rates of long-term nonemployment have even been diverging. Simultaneously, the rate of nonemployment for working age men has nearly tripled over the last 50 years, generating a social problem that is disproportionately centered in the eastern parts of the American heartland. Should more permanent economic divisions across space lead U.S. economists to rethink their traditional skepticism about place-based policies? We document that increases in labor demand appear to have greater effects on employment in areas where not working has been historically high, suggesting that subsidizing employment in such places could reduce the rate of not working. Proemployment policies, such as a ramped-up Earned Income Tax Credit, that are targeted toward regions with more elastic employment responses, however financed, could plausibly reduce suffering and materially improve economic performance.


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pp. 151-255
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