Thanks to zoning and land-use restrictions, the American dream has fractured: The rich cities with the greatest upward mobility are the least affordable, while the most affordable places to live have a poor record of mobility. As a result, America has grown more divided in the past few decades, not only by politics and by class, but also by geography.

"Remote work is the first change in a while that can help lean against this trend," Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Upwork, told me. White-collar workers moving away from NIMBY areas could help solve this problem in two important ways: by reducing housing prices in superstar cities, and sprinkling high-income workers throughout the country.

Coastal cities' depopulation will not be a perfect substitute for more housing construction in those cities, but it might be better than the before world. Remote work is not a perfect substitute for higher welfare spending, either, but thousands of high-income workers moving to lower-income metros in the Midwest and the South could stimulate local job creation and raise local incomes. And remote work is not a perfect solution to regional inequality, but it will almost certainly expand the roster of hyperproductive cities in ways that could help wages grow nationwide, according to Moretti's analysis.

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