Spatial mismatch

Spatial mismatch is the mismatch between where low-income households reside and suitable job opportunities. African-Americans, as a result of residential segregation , economic restructuring , and the suburbanization of employment.

Spatial mismatch was first proposed by John F. Kain in a seminal 1968 article, “Housing Segregation, Negro Employment, and Metropolitan Decentralization”. [1] That article did not specifically use the term “spatial mismatch”, and Kain disclaimed credit. [2]

In 1987, William Julius Wilson was an important exponent, elaborating the role of economic restructuring, as well as the departure of the black middle-class, in the development of a ghetto underclass in the United States. [3]


After World War I , many wealthy Americans started decentralizing out of the cities and into the suburbs. During the second half of the 20th century, department storesfollowed the trend of moving into the suburbs. In 1968, Kain formulated the “Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis”, but did not refer to it by this term. His hypothesis was that black workers reside in segregated areas that are distant and poorly connected to major centers of growth. The phenomenon has many implications for inner-city residents dependent on low-level entry jobs. For example, distance from work centers can lead to increasing unemployment rates and further poverty for the region at large.


In 2007, Laurent Gobillon, Harris Selod, and Yves Zenou suggested that there be seven different factors that support the spatial mismatch phenomenon. [4] Three factors are attributed to potential workers accessibility and initiatives. The remaining two factors stress employers’ reluctance to divert away from the negative stigma of city people and in particular minorities when hiring.

Potential workers perspectives

Urban redevelopment projects such as Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis concentrated and separated workers from their surroundings and work. Such projects created a ghettoized underclass in America.
  • It is a very good job. In other words, cars may be too expensive for some workers and they may have to rely heavily on public transportation. Public transportation is problematic in a sense that it is not always prompt and may not stop at all.
  • Information to jobs decreases as distance from the job center. People who are living away from the job center. Therefore, networking and information spillovers are of a major advantage in accessing information about potential openings.
  • There seems to be a lack of incentive for distance jobs. Gobillion, Selod and Zenou believe that minorities, more or less, do a tradeoff between short term and long term benefits. The short term loss involves frequent search trips to remote work centers. However, the long term benefit involves a stable employment and a higher wage rate. Unfortunately, minorities tend to get the short term loss higher than the long term benefits and as a result decreases their opportunity to obtaining a job in the suburbs.
  • There is a lot of work to do in the suburbs. It could be associated with paying a job to expand their search beyond the urban residential area or locating an agency in the suburbs.


Growth of ghost cities in China , as well as in the case of Kangbashi New Area of Ordos , are an example of spatial mismatch. In the case of places near metropolitan areas, it represents less of a risk going forward than in mining areas.

See also

  • Involuntary unemployment
  • Reverse switches


  1. Jump up^ Kain, John F. (1968). “Housing Segregation, Negro Employment, and Metropolitan Decentralization”. Quarterly Journal of Economics . 82 (2): 175-197. Doi : 10.2307 / 1885893 .
  2. Jump up^ Kain, John F. (2004). “A pioneer’s perspective on the spatial mismatch literature”. Urban Studies . 41 (1): 7-32. Doi : 10.1080 / 0042098032000155669 .
  3. Jump up^ Wilson, William Julius (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy . Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN  0-226-90130-0 .
  4. Jump up^ Gobillon, Laurent; Selod, Harris; Zenou, Yves (2007). “The Mechanisms of Spatial Mismatch”. Urban Studies . 44 (12): 2401-2427. Doi : 10.1080 / 00420980701540937 .

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