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Space In The Study Of Labor Markets

Roberto M. Fernandez, Celina Su

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A common claim in the economic, geographic, and sociological literatures on labor markets is that space “matters” for labor market outcomes. We review three distinct literatures that take the relationship between labor markets and geographic space as a central concern, in particular: (a) the research on race and spatial mismatch; (b) the literature on gender, space, and labor markets; and (c) the research on the spatial agglomeration of employers and its relationship to workers' careers and economic growth. Our goal in this review is to shed light on the key mechanisms by which spatial factors might work in the context of the labor market. Despite taking contrasting positions—for some of these discussions, the emphasis is on space as a constraining factor, whereas for others space is primarily a facilitator of labor market transactions—the issue of social networks emerges as an important theoretical thread across all these literatures. We conclude by considering the implications of this mechanism and suggesting lines of future research for the study of space and labor markets.