Report: Small Counties At Greater Risk of Losing Jobs to Automation

automation industry concept

American Workers in Small Counties Face Risk of Automation

A recent study carried out by the Ball State University in Indiana has found that small rural counties in the United States face a greater risk of job losses due to automation, than do the bigger urban centers.

The research carried out by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University studied how automation and offshoring of jobs could impact American workers in the coming years. The researchers also studied how the job losses could affect various counties within the states.

The study, titled “How Vulnerable Are American Communities to Automation, Trade, & Urbanization?” has found that automation poses a bigger threat to American workers than does offshoring. In addition, the researchers also determined that rural towns are expected to face more job losses than urban locations.

The study also suggests that Americans earning less than $38,000 in annual income face the greatest threat from automation. Low-income earners are often employed in jobs that require little education and perform functions that are easily automated.


In terms of specific counties, the study found that Alaska’s Aleutians East Borough may be at the greatest risk of losing jobs to automation in the country. According to the study, the borough faces a 67% risk from automation and a 31% risk from offshoring.

The study identified Falls Church, Virginia as facing the least risk from automation. Just over a third of the jobs in the county (36.4%) could be at risk of automation.

The study mentions the jobs that are most vulnerable to getting automated. Included on the list are telemarketers, data entry clerks, insurance underwriters, and those who work in  math sciences. Likewise, occupations that are most likely to face offshoring include computer programmers, information research scientists, mechanical drafters, and data entry workers.

The jobs least likely to face automation or offshoring risks include emergency management directors; audiologists; mental health and addiction social workers; recreational therapists; and frontline supervisors for mechanics, installers, and repairers.

The professor who co-authored the study, Michael Hicks, says that the findings of the study may not be surprising, but they are definitely worrisome. He warns that technology will continue to disrupt traditional jobs, which may trigger social and political discontent among the masses.

According to Hicks, the transition toward automation could be “extraordinarily nasty.” He urges policymakers to find early solutions for a smoother transition.


How Vulnerable Are American Communities to Automation, Trade, & Urbanization?,” Center for Business and Economic Research – Ball State University, June 19, 2017.

More than half of Cook County jobs could be lost to automation, study finds,” Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2017.