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Job Sprawl and Spatial Mismatch in Michigan

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Issue 28, Summer 2005

Job Sprawl and Spatial Mismatch in Michigan
by Jim Schaafsma, MPLP Housing Law Attorney

Among metropolitan areas in the U.S. with populations greater than 500,000, two in Michigan led the nation in "job sprawl", and the Detroit metro area has the highest rate of "spacial mismatch" between jobs and African-Americans in the country, according to a recent Brookings Institution report. The study identifies "spacial mismatch" as a measure of the physical isolation of people, in terms of where they live, from job opportunities in their metropolitan area. ("segregation between people and jobs"). "Job sprawl" describes "low-density, geographically spread out patterns of employment growth," and was measured by the percentage of jobs in a metropolitan area located outside a 5-mile ring around the area's central business district.

The report found that the Ann Arbor metropolitan area had the nation's highest job sprawl index at 99.6% [as someone who lives in Ann Arbor, that number sounds seems implausibly high]; the Detroit area's was second at 92.4%. The study found a significant correlation between job sprawl and special mismatch for blacks, especially in the Midwest, where racial segregation is high. The Detroit area's black spacial mismatch index was 71.4%; the Ann Arbor area's was 48%. The only other Michigan metropolitan area mentioned in the report is Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland; its job sprawl and black spacial mismatch indices were 68.8% and 50.4%. The two primary sources of data for the study were the 2000 Census and U.S. Department of Commerce's Zip Code Business Patterns files. In summary, the report says that "by better linking job growth with existing residential patterns, policies to promote balanced metropolitan development could help narrow the spatial mismatch between blacks and jobs." The full report is available at