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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spatial Mismatch or Automobile Mismatch? An Examination of Race, Residence and Commuting in US Metropolitan Areas


This paper uses data from the metropolitan samples of the American Housing Survey in 1977-78 and 1985 to examine the commute patterns of whites, blacks and Hispanics in US metropolitan areas, with a particular focus on the commutes of workers living in predominantly minority residential areas. Overall, the commute patterns of white and minority workers appear to be converging rather than diverging over time, even among low-skilled workers. Contrary to the spatial mismatch hypothesis, black and Hispanic workers living in minority areas had both shorter commutes and commutes that increased more slowly between 1977-78 and 1985 compared to workers in other areas. Further, a longitudinal analysis shows that the average commute times of non-moving minority workers in predominantly minority areas decreased during the study period. We find no evidence in these commuting data to support the spatial mismatch hypothesis.

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