My passionate interest lies in the hotly-debated topic of spatial mismatch. Why do labor sources and consumer options move away from those that are most in need of steady jobs and competitive prices? Is it simply a matter of calculating dollars and cents? Or are other non-economic factors in play?

As people began to fan out from city cores in the early 20th century, dollars soon followed. A perfect example is the suburban shopping mall, offering all of the retail opportunities of central cities without any of the drawbacks of limited parking or long commutes, for example. To minimize the impact of commuting, other businesses abandoned the cities for the suburbs where their employees were settling in increasing numbers. This was seen as an advantageous measure to increase punctuality and save workers money on transportation costs (thereby mitigating the pressure for raises). Coming in early and staying late to finish a project is likewise more difficult with a long journey between home and work.

In contrast to the benefits derived for employers, city residents of limited means are burdened by additional costs. Gasoline and transport charges—rather than shrink—instead expand for the urban dwellers, many of whom must give up their secure positions in deference to the higher expenditures required. As unemployment rises in the inner city, stores close for lack of customers; crime rises among idle and restless populations; and urban blight proliferates. All the while, politicians and policy makers argue chicken-or-egg as to the cause of it all. My calling is to discover the roots of spatial mismatch, and to formulate solutions to this stubborn condition.

My work in this area enables me to share authoritatively with my students. Having conducted extensive research in spatial mismatch, and in the positive and negative effects of gentrification, I regularly present my findings to academic societies and real estate groups. Suburban sprawl and its impact on communities; racial discrimination and upward mobility; and the economics of affordable housing all figure into spatial mismatch. As I write and teach on these subjects, I am ever more convinced of their interconnectedness. Although a seemingly separate issue, real estate broker compensation also affects who lives where and what opportunities are available. Commissions, after all, are based on sales prices which, in turn, relate to their market value. Neighborhoods, taxes, businesses and quality of life all bear heavily on the market values of homes.

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Richard Martin
Brooks Hall
Athens, GA 30602