Jim Crow and the Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis

Martin Ruef , Duke University
Angelina Grigoryeva, Princeton University

A robust body of social science research has investigated the spatial mismatch hypothesis (SMH), considering the consequences of geographic disparities between black residential locations and potential opportunities for employment. Focusing on U.S. urban areas since the 1970s, studies have produced equivocal evidence for the SMH. In this paper, we argue that this may result from a misspecification in both the historical period and mechanisms whereby spatial mismatch affects black employment opportunities. We show that national declines in black employment and labor force participation, particularly among black women, were especially pronounced in the Jim Crow era, rather than the post-industrial era in which the SMH has generally been tested. We then investigate the extent to which the SMH should be formulated as a commuting problem or a problem of residential ecology, in which blacks who do not live near entrepreneurs or white neighbors are less likely to obtain jobs.

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 Presented in Session 48. Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Labor Markets