The front cover to Spatial Mismatch in Housing and Employment: A Tool for Targeted Intervention in Michigan Neighborhoods

Spatial Mismatch in Housing and Employment: A Tool for Targeted Intervention in Michigan Neighborhoods


July 17, 2020 - <>, Weijing Wang and Huiqing Huang

Michigan Spatial Mismatch Tool

Executive Summary

The spatial mismatch between housing and employment opportunities contributes to long commutes between work and home (Cervero, 1989; Giuliano & Small, 1993; Wang, 2000), higher transportation costs, more traffic congestion and air pollution, a reduction in work productivity (Cervero, 1989; Giuliano, 1991), and greater racial and economic inequality (Ihlanfeldt & Sjoquist, 1998).  

Public officials can address issues of spatial mismatch through three primary strategies: Encouraging the development of housing in areas with a high number of jobs, encouraging the development of employment opportunities in areas with a high number of residents, and improving transportation systems to ease commute burdens (Gobillon & Selod, 2019).  

To do so effectively, planners and policymakers must first understand the spatial distribution of housing and employment opportunities across the state.  

This report, funded by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) at Michigan State University (MSU), describes an analysis and visualization tool – the Michigan Spatial Mismatch (MSM) Tool – developed by researchers at MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) 

The MSM Tool allows users to map housing-employment mismatches across the state. It facilitates data-driven decision-making by allowing users to examine two indicators of spatial mismatch – imbalance and disparity indices.  

The tool assists the identification of neighborhoods that are high-priority areas for housing development for Michigan’s workforce or, conversely, high-priority areas for targeted economic development.  

Imbalances capture the location of housing and employment opportunities by measuring differences in the number of residents and workers in each neighborhood; these indices therefore highlight which neighborhoods are predominantly residential areas and which are predominantly places of employment.  

Disparities measure differences in the economic or demographic characteristics of residents and the local workforce; these indices therefore provide insight into whether residents in a specific neighborhood are more or less disadvantaged than members of that neighborhood’s workforce.  

To illustrate how the MSM Tool can be used to analyze housing-employment mismatches throughout Michigan, we answer three research questions in this report:  

  1. How balanced are housing and employment opportunities in neighborhoods in the Detroit metropolitan area?  
  2. Is there evidence of income or racial disparities in the composition of residents and workers across the region?  
  3. Given their physical, social, and economic characteristics, which of these neighborhoods are “high-priority” areas where targeted intervention to promote workforce housing development is warranted?  

We illustrate that many of the employment opportunities in the Detroit metro area are concentrated in suburban areas outside the cities of Detroit and Pontiac. These suburbs are home to a disproportionate share of the region’s jobs, but they provide a limited supply of housing for the region’s workforce and have disproportionately low shares of low income and Black residents.  

Large swathes of Detroit and Pontiac, on the other hand, have relatively few employment opportunities and are predominantly home to low-income and Black residents. We then describe how the MSM Tool can be used to examine economic and physical conditions in neighborhoods, such as housing values and walkability, in order to identify target areas for housing or economic development efforts.  

We recommend that state and local policymakers/planners visit the MSM Tool to identify housing-employment mismatches across the state or in their local community.  

To address patterns of spatial mismatch across the state, policymakers in Michigan should support further research on affordable housing in the state; encourage coordinated, regional efforts to address housing-employment mismatches within metropolitan areas; promote affordable housing development in job-rich areas; support economic development in housing-rich areas; and expand and improve transit options to reduce commute burdens. 



Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at