Modest Progress: The Narrowing Spatial Mismatch Between Blacks and Jobs in the 1990s

Michael Stoll and Steven Raphael


An analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data on the location of people and jobs in U.S. metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2000 finds that:

  • In 2000, no group was more physically isolated from jobs than blacks. In nearly all metropolitan areas with significant black populations, the separation between residences and jobs was much higher for blacks than whites.
  • During the 1990s, blacks’ overall proximity to jobs improved slightly, narrowing the gap in “spatial mismatch” between blacks and whites by 13 percent. Declines in spatial mismatch for blacks were smallest in metro areas in the Northeast, and in metro areas where blacks represent a relatively large share of the population.
  • Metro areas with higher levels of black-white residential segregation exhibit a higher degree of spatial mismatch between blacks and jobs. In metro areas that experienced declines in black-white segregation during the 1990s, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and Pittsburgh, PA, the spatial mismatch between blacks and jobs tended to decline as well.
  • The residential movement of black households within metropolitan areas drove most of the overall decline in spatial mismatch for blacks in the 1990s. By contrast, had black residential locations remained the same in 2000 as in 1990, the movement of jobs over the decade actually would have increased spatial mismatch for the metropolitan black population.