June 2024

IZA DP No. 17058: Unemployment, Segregation, and the Structure of Cities

We examine the residential segregation of workers and the unemployed in the 80 largest cities in Germany. Drawing on a large set of geo-referenced data for the period from 2000 until 2015, we are able to study the within-city distribution of unemployment in unprecedented detail. We document a strong and persistent rise in segregation between workers and the unemployed along three dimensions: spatial unevenness, centrality, and localization. First, we show that cities have become spatially less even with respect to the distribution of unemployment. Regarding centrality, we demonstrate that local unemployment rates tend to be highest in downtown areas and decrease quickly with distance from the urban core. This relationship has strengthened over time. We investigate whether a strong reurbanization trend in German cities after 2007 might explain rising unevenness and concentration of unemployment in the center, but find little affirmative evidence. Instead, the strong overall rise of segregation was characterized by a third phenomenon: a trend towards 'localization', i.e., a tendency of workers and the unemployed to sort into increasingly small-scale but internally more homogeneous residential areas.