Ball State University sits in Muncie, Indiana, at the heart the "Rust Belt," so educators there have the right to be pessimistic about the drift of the U.S. economy. But a report by the school's Center for Business and Economic Research goes even further.
"We found a toxic brew," said CBER Director Michael Hicks. "Automation is likely to replace half of all low-skilled jobs, and roughly one in four of all American jobs are at risk from foreign competition in coming years."
This is happening right on Hicks's doorstep. While the nation's most vulnerable area is the Aleutian Islands, some of the hardest hit places are likely to be Midwestern counties only 15 minutes from his office.
These areas face a downward spiral fed by shrinking job opportunities and the severe damage that can have on entire communities. As people lose their ability to make a living, they lose their resilience to bounce back, get retrained and transition to other careers. There are fewer new jobs in the entire region, so the surrounding communities also grow poorer. Many residents find it necessary to move, which not only disrupts their families, but their children's education as well, undermining their chances of advancement.
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