More than a year ago, the leaders of scores of up-and-coming cities across America’s Heartland entered Amazon’s HQ2 competition, espousing the idea that the e-commerce giant might select a mid-size city or metropolis in the Rust Belt, like Detroit or Columbus, for its second headquarters location.

Alas, we all should have known better. On Tuesday, Amazon officially announced its decision to split its awarding of 50, 000 headquarters tasks — not to one up-and-coming city in the Midwest — but between Long Island City in Queens, New York and Crystal City, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.( The company also plans to create around 5,000 jobs in Nashville .)

So much for the Rust Belt uplift story, one that might help knit a divided country together through mid-market, Midwestern economic development.

Which creates the real story here: Amazon’s decision to invest heavily in two preexisting “superstar” cities perfectly represents one of the most troubling aspects of digital economies: their strong tendency to concentrate people and investment in a very few well-educated, tech-rich hubs that have, in recent decades, continued to pull away from the rest of the country on basic measures of prosperity.

Scholars for years have suspected that tech might alter the hierarchy of cities. Economist Elisa Giannone recently found that beginning in the 1980 s the wages of cities — after converge for generations — had begun to diverge as tech began to inordinately reward dense clusters of highly skilled workers and firms. Likewise, research at Brookings has shown that a short list of highly digital, often coastal, tech hubs are pulling farther away from the pack on measures of growth and income, concentrating more of the nation’s tech activity and talent.

In short, the “digitalization of everything” is exacerbating the unevenness of America’s economic landscape and attaining it increasingly likely that new tech headquarters run not to new places, but to the same places. What just happened demonstrates the point.

This matters because the widening gap between “superstar” cities and the places left behind by economic transformation is creating a troubling panorama of untapped potential and frustration. On the one hand, the drift of scores of promising cities filled with talented people, outstanding institutions and underutilized infrastructure mean that America is not fully delivering on its promise for economic fulfillment. On the other hand, whole swaths of the country that have fallen behind in a changing economy are marked by political discontent that has contributed to the nation’s populist backlash and widening social divides.