Urban underemployment and the spatial separation of jobs and residences

by K. E. Phillips

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Poor physical accessibility has been offered to explain why low income central city workers are systematically retained in the lowest paying occupations. However, it is possible that factors other than physical accessibility contribute to retaining workers in low paying jobs. It may be that workers voluntarily decline to commute to outlying jobsites because the wage offered does not warrant the effort and expense. This study examines the relationship between contract wage offer and distance to work for a large sample of low income job seekers in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. Analysis revealed a very strong and statistically significant relationship between the offered wage and the distance which a job seeker was willing to travel in response to that offer. These findings suggest that implementing new transportation facilities will not improve a worker's economic level unless employers can be convinced to increase the level of the contract wage offer.

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