What are the Negative Impacts of Spatial Inequality on the Economic Prospects of Inner-City Residents and What Can Planners Do to Address Them ?

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The contrast between where inner-city residents live and where they work is the basis of Kain’s (1968) “spatial mismatch” hypothesis. Both Wilson (1987) and Gobillon, Selod, and Zenou (2007) have offered different interpretations of “spatial mismatch” theory to confirm its conceptual validity. For Wilson, “spatial mismatch” theory can explain the disappearance of jobs within the inner-city and as part of a larger trend toward economic restructuring and the mobility of labor toward a more-skilled labor pool across a metropolitan region. Gobillon and his colleagues suggest that seven separate factors explain the asymmetry between the residential location of workers and their jobs. Of these seven factors, four relate to worker perspectives in assessing job opportunities and obstacles to maintaining employment and the remaining three factors reflect information and opportunity costs borne by employers at the time of recruitment. Yet neither of these analysis alone illustrates the potential impact of how the “spatial mismatch” reflects the external dynamics encountered by inner-city workers that reflect how spatial inequality presents itself as a set of barriers that this population faces in accessing the labour market. This paper offers a conceptual framework to untangle the knot of spatial mismatch, by suggesting that inner-city residents are impacted by economic exclusion, inequity in transportation access, and limited capacity to build social capital as a result of residential location. From a social policy perspective, this paper suggests there needs to be a re-examination of how these constraints, not related to skills, impact economic mobility and how addressing these obstacles more comprehensively might spark greater labor force participation and increased economic opportunities for those thwarted from advancement. By identifying and implementing programmatic options that raise the levels of employability among lower income, inner-city residents, this paper concludes that increases in labour market participation rate provide an alternative outcome metric for evaluating these policy interventions.
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1: Inclusiveness and empowerment. Al-Majlis: planning with and for communities
Adjunct Lecturer
American University, School of Public Affairs

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