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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spatial and Transportation Mismatch in Los Angeles


One of the most salient characteristics of poor urban neighborhoods is poor labor-market outcomes. Since its conceptualization in the late 1960's, the spatial mismatch hypothesis (SMH) has been cited to explain the employment problems encountered by residents of disadvantaged urban communities. Scholars have noted an increasing geographic separation between job opportunities and low-income minorities, many of whom have remained trapped in inner-city ghettos and barrios while jobs have decentralized into the suburbs. Physical distance, then, has been recognized as an employment barrier. Spatial mismatch has also been tied to the development of underclass neighborhoods - those where at least two-fifths of the residents fall below the poverty line. These communities have experienced an exodus of the middle-class, which in turn has weakened community institutions and social networks, created a paucity of positive role models, and devastated neighborhood economies. Empirical studies have found that spatial mismatch adversely impacts labor-market outcomes for African Americans in older cities, but the hypothesis may not be relevant for all disadvantaged urban neighborhoods.

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