Commuting to Employment Centers in Portland

Splintered Metropolitan Opportunity in the United States? Re-Examining the 'Mismatch' between Emerging Employment Centers and Distressed Neighborhoods

Commuting to Employment Centers in Portland

Splintered Metropolitan Opportunity in the United States? Re-Examining the 'Mismatch' between Emerging Employment Centers and Distressed Neighborhoods

Abstract

Land use planners and environmental advocates often argue in favor of compact growth and the consolidation of commercial activity into well-defined centers as a method to curb traffic and improve air quality. However, recent scholarship has shown that sprawling land-use patterns are also linked to lower levels of economic mobility. This work has reignited debates over spatial mismatch and how specifically “geography matters” in determining economic opportunity. This paper contributes to this emerging field by providing a national reassessment of the spatial mismatch hypothesis. Specifically, we analyze the degree of labor market integration between metropolitan employment centers (ECs) and distressed inner-city neighborhoods using new data available from the Local Origin Destination Employment Statistics (LODES) program. We define employment centers using McMillen (2003)’s method of subcenter identification based on local peaks in employment density the census tract level. We then define inner-city residential locations as all economically distressed census tracts located within the main principal city of each metropolitan area. We then measure the labor flows between inner-city tracts and each defined employment center by type (i.e. suburban, urban and CBD). Overall, we find that although inner-city residents make up for a small share of employment within all ECs, non-CBD urban ECs do a better job of hiring workers from distressed inner city areas than suburban ECs. Structural conditions such as transit accessibility, sprawling land-use patterns, and jurisdictional complexity are each negatively associated with connecting inner-city residents to jobs in ECs.

Publication
Economic Development Quarterly
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