Spatial mismatch

Spatial mismatch is the mismatch between where low-income disposable and suitable job opportunities. In its original formulation (see below) and in subsequent research, it has been understood that 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] This 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 stores followed the trend of moving into the suburbs. In 1968, Kain formulated the “Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis”, but he 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. For example, distance from work centers can lead to increasing rates of unemployment and greater poverty in the region.


In 2007, Laurent Gobillon, Harris Selod, and Yves Zenou suggested that there are 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

  • Commuting cost is seen to an obstacle for inner city people to be present for job interviews and more to arrive to work everyday on time. In other words, coaches can be too expensive for some workers and they can have to rely heavily on public transportation. Public transportation is problematic in a sense that it is not always possible to rent a website.
  • Information access to jobs decreases distance from the job center. People who are living away from the job center are less knowledgeable about potential jobs than those who live closer to 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 workers to search for a job that is relatively far away. Gobillion, Selod and Zenou believe that minorities, more or less, do a tradeoff between short term and long term benefits. The work involves frequent trips to remote work centers. However, the long term benefits entails a stable job and a higher wage rate. Unfortunately, minorities tend to weigh in the long term as a result of their job loss.
  • There also seems to be a high cost search for urban workers looking for a job in the suburbs. It may be associated with paying for a job in the suburbs.


The growth of cities in China , especially in the case of the most famous example, 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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