Change versus decline: The suburbanization of jobs in U.S. shrinking cities

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date


Publication Title

Advances in Transport Policy and Planning


Spatial mismatch theory hypothesizes that as jobs suburbanize, minorities and low-income households will disproportionately lose access to economic opportunity. This paper hypothesizes that the context of urban decline also challenges job accessibility. In shrinking cities, growth at the urban fringe not only expands the footprint of the region's urbanized area, but unlike in most strong market settings, it simultaneously hollows out the core, challenging job accessibility for residents. This paper tests this hypothesis by presenting a block-group level model of job accessibility in the Principal Cities of 349 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The model finds that the context of urban decline reduces job accessibility for residents by 6.9%, other things equal. Descriptive statistics are employed to analyze spatial changes in job location over time. The results suggest that as development pushes outward in strong market settings, the core shares in the growth, while in shrinking cities, spatial deconcentration disproportionately weakens the core. This process is hypothesized to lead to the decreased job accessibility found in shrinking cities.