In many places in the United States, people with low incomes live far from available jobs, and employers cannot find workers to fill open positions. This gap between where jobs are located and where job seekers live is referred to as “spatial mismatch,” and it can harm both employers and potential workers. Rental assistance programs, such as public housing and housing vouchers, could help people live closer to available jobs and thus reduce spatial mismatch. However, the historical placement of public housing far from opportunities and discrimination against families with housing vouchers might mean that recipients of federal rental assistance live farther from job opportunities than they would without that assistance.
To understand the relationship between federal rental assistance programs and spatial mismatch, we analyze data from Snag, the largest online marketplace for hourly jobs in the US, and data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the location of public housing and assisted households. We find that spatial mismatch is worse for assisted households than for similar unassisted households, suggesting that public and assisted housing does not, on average, help families live closer to net job opportunities. Within assistance types, households in public housing fare the worst; they have an average of over 8,000 more job seekers than job postings within a reasonable commuting distance, followed by households with Housing Choice Vouchers, which have almost 6,000 more nearby job seekers than postings. Households in the project-based Section 8 rental assistance programs and moderate rehabilitation programs fare the best, with just under 4,500 more job seekers than postings within a reasonable commuting radius.