Geography of Interpreter Employment

27-3091. That’s the Standard Occupational Classification code for interpreters and translators. If you want to find out what the government thinks we do for a living, or learn more about what the government knows about us, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics web page on interpreters and translators.

If you look below, you’ll see a map of the relative concentration of interpreters. (A location quotient higher than 1 means higher than the national average of interpreters.) I’m posting a smidgen of their data here for two reasons. First, I want to start thinking about our profession within a larger economy. I’m starting with what we know. Based on the map, we know that D.C., Columbus, and L.A. have among the highest concentrations of interpreters and translators, while St. Louis and Savannah have lower concentrations. The distribution of interpreters is geographically uneven, which means that geography has something to do with the economies of interpreting. (Good thing I’m a geographer, eh?)

Second, I also want to show what we don’t know. Based on the map, we only seem to have data based on metropolitan areas, not on every county and census tract in the country. This means that those educational interpreters in rural areas are overlooked. Not to mention, given technological advances, it’s probably more likely that interpreters and translators will be able to work across the urban-rural divide. Therefore, this map doesn’t give us a great idea of where services are received or performed.

If any interpreter out there is looking to get a master’s degree, it seems to me that an economic analysis of interpreters would be really useful.


(click on the map for a link to the source)


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