Public Transit, Jitneys and Poverty

The Problem of Spatial Mismatch

“There is an important mismatch between where low-income folks live and where employers are hiring low-skilled workers. For decades, urban centers were the source of lower-skilled jobs and, not surprisingly, also the home of many low-skilled workers. Public transportation linked workers and jobs. But we’re now seeing job growth in the low-skill sector taking place in the suburbs and, again, not surprisingly, seeing more poor families with suburban addresses. Low- skilled job growth is taking place outside of the center city and outside of the reach of public transportation.”

-O’Brien and Pedulla of the New American Foundation

The Basics

The Spatial-mismatch theory states that the majority of impoverished live in inner-city areas, and that job opportunities are mainly in the suburbs. Two-thirds of all new jobs are located in the suburbs, and three quarters of welfare recipients are in central city areas.1

The Trend

The trends suggest that the problem is long-term, growing worse every year. On our current trajectory, in years to come there will be less jobs in cities, more jobs in suburbs, and if urban transit does not move with the times, more unemployed. The statistics which illustrate the trend of spatial mismatch are irrefutable, and Harris Selod (he has a PHD and is a researcher at the center of economic research and statistics in France) and his constituents Laurent Gobillon and Yves Zenou observed the following:

Our own calculations show that, in the ten largest MSAs [Metropolitan statistical areas], the proportion of jobs located in central cities decreased from 57% in 1980 to 51% in 1990 and 47% in 2000. If we exclude the case of New York City which remains very centralized, the average proportion of central-city jobs for the nine remaining MSAs goes down from 49% in 1980 to only 44% in 1990 and 40% in 2000. This steady decrease in the percentage of jobs located in central cities can most probably be explained by a higher growth rate of jobs in the suburbs than in the central city. In the ten largest MSAs, between 1980 and 1990, the number of jobsincreased on average by +3% each year in the suburbs, but only grew by +0.8% in central cities. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of jobs increased on average by +1.4% each year in the suburbs, but slightly decreased by -.1% in central cities.