Spatial mismatch
Spatial mismatch is the sociological
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, economic
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and political
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

 associated with economic restructuring
Economic restructuring
Economic restructuring refers to the phenomenon of Western urban areas shifting from a manufacturing to a service sector economic base. This transformation has affected demographics including income distribution, employment, and social hierarchy; institutional arrangements including the growth of...

 in which employment
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

 opportunities for low-income people are located far away from the areas where they live. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, this takes the form of high concentrations of poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 in central cities
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, with low-wage, low-skill employment opportunities concentrated in the suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...


The term was first used by John F. Kain in 1968. In The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987), William Julius Wilson
William Julius Wilson
William Julius Wilson is an American sociologist. He worked at the University of Chicago 1972-1996 before moving to Harvard....

 was an early exponent, one of the first to enunciate at length the spatial mismatch theory for the development of a ghetto underclass in the United States.


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 store
Department store
A department store is a retail establishment which satisfies a wide range of the consumer's personal and residential durable goods product needs; and at the same time offering the consumer a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in all product categories...

s followed the trend of moving into the suburbs. In 1968, J. F Kain formulated the “Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis”, although he did not refer to it by this term. In his hypothesis, he speculated that black workers reside in segregated zones that are distant and poorly connected to major centers of growth. The Spatial Mismatch phenomenon has many implications for inner city residents that are dependent on low level entry jobs. For example, distance from work centers can lead to increasing unemployment rates and furthermore dampening poverty outcomes for the region at large.

Factors of spatial mismatch

In The Mechanisms of Spatial Mismatch (2007), Laurent Gobillon, Harris Selod and Yves Zenou suggested that there are seven different factors that support the Spatial Mismatch phenomenon. 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

  1. Commuting cost is seen as an obstacle for inner city people to be present for job interviews and furthermore to arrive to work everyday on time. 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 in addition, it may not stop at all job location sites.
  2. Information access to jobs decreases as distance increases away from the job center. People who are living away from the job center are generally less knowledgeable about potential openings than individuals who live closer to the job center. Therefore, networking and information spillovers
    Knowledge spillover
    Knowledge spillover is an exchange of ideas among individuals. In knowledge management economics, a knowledge spillover is a non-rival knowledge market externality that has a spillover effect of stimulating technological improvements in a neighbor through one's own innovation...

    are of a major advantage in accessing information about potential openings.
  3. There seems to be a lack of incentive for distance workers to search intensively for a job that is relatively far away. Gobillion, Selod and Zenou believe that minorities more or less do a tradeoff between short term loss and long term benefits. The short term loss involves making frequent search trips to distant work centers. However, the long term benefit involves obtaining a stable job and thus a higher wage rate. Unfortunately, minorities tend to weigh the short term loss higher than the long term benefits and as a result decreases their opportunity at obtaining a job in the suburbs.
  4. There also seems to be a high search cost involve for urban workers looking for a job in the suburbs. This might be associated with paying a job agency to expand their search beyond the urban residential area or locating an agency in the suburbs.

External links

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