January 2003

IZA DP No. 693: Spatial Mismatch: From the Hypothesis to the Theories

published as 'The Mechanisms of Spatial Mismatch ' in: Urban Studies, 2007, 44 (12), 2401-2427

Since the 1950s, there has been a steady decentralization of entry-level jobs towards the suburbs of American cities, while racial minorities —and particularly blacks— have remained in city centers. In this context, the spatial mismatch hypothesis argues that because the residential locations of minorities are disconnected from suburban job opportunities, lowskilled minorities residing in inner cities face adverse labor market outcomes. However, the reason why distance to jobs may be harmful to minorities has long remained unclear while the abundant but essentially empirical literature on spatial mismatch has led to much controversy. The present work presents the main stylized facts associated with spatial mismatch and reviews the main theoretical models that started to emerge in the late 1990s.