The United States is #6 in robot density among nations, but that doesn’t reflect the reality across the nation. Some parts of the U.S. have hardly any robots in play, while other regions make a much more robust showing.
Which region has the most robots?
The Midwest is the winner.
These states have the highest robot density:
Michigan alone, the top robot-using state, has almost as many robots as the entire West Coast. California has a lot of robots — 17,844 — but Michigan’s smaller population makes the robot density difference striking. Michigan has 7.4 robots per 1,000 workers, while California has just 1.2.
After the Midwest, the next most robot-dense region is the South. Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Alabama, and Virginia all are fairly high in the ranks of robot density.
Is it the automakers that bring the numbers of these states up? That’s certainly part of it, but a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that this is not the whole story. States with automakers are indeed high on the list, but not all of them.
Which states have the most? The recent study found that robotics hubs — metro areas with lots of robots, like Toledo, Ohio — usually have a robot aggregator. That’s a company that helps manufacturers procure and install robots. They also found that states with less union activity are more likely to have more robots.
That may reflect unions working to protect their rank and file from robot job encroachment, but it could also show what previous studies found: red states have more robots than blue ones.
The National Bureau of Economic Research also found that states with more robots also have more human production workers, but that they work at lower rates. The correlation with low union activity is not surprising, but add in the number of robots and the question becomes a chicken and the egg problem. Does the lack of unions encourage factories to spend their money on automation and not on human wages? Or do the low wages and low union activity leave employers more capital to invest in robots? Maybe the political leanings discourage unions and the resulting low wages lead to work shortages ameliorated by automation.