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For Those Living in Public Housing, It’s a Long Way to Work

A new Urban Institute study measures the spatial mismatch between where job seekers live and employment opportunities.
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David 'Dee' Delgado/Bloomberg

Let’s say there are two people in Atlanta who need jobs. They poke around on Snagajob, a job-search site for hourly work that lists hundreds of thousands of jobs in 300,000 locations. They scroll through listings for FedEx delivery driver, or shift manager at Wendy’s, or lot associate at Home Depot. But one job seeker lives in a public housing development, and the other doesn’t. According to a new Urban Institute report, their odds of finding work close to home might look very different.

Using job listing and applicant data collected in 2015 by Snagajob, researchers cross-referenced available jobs posted in 16 metro areas with the number of applicants who lived within a “reasonable commuting distance” from the jobs in question. (Here, “reasonable” is defined as one being within 6.3 miles of each zip code’s population-weighted center; though Snagajob is just one platform, U.S. Census Bureau figures suggest that in the 16 metros researchers studied, it accounted for 13% of recent new hires.) Then they compared that difference for those who used federal housing assistance, like public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, or Section 8 rental assistance, and those who didn’t.