Kalee E. Burns and Julie L. Hotchkiss
Working Paper 2019-01a
Revised May 2019

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Using the Current Population Survey between 1996 and 2018, this paper investigates the role constraints to migration might play in explaining racial/ethnic disparities in the labor market. The Delta Index of dissimilarity is used to illustrate a greater distributional mismatch between race/education specific workers and jobs among minorities relative to white non-Hispanics. Regression analysis then shows that this mismatch is consistent with minorities being less responsive to changes in the distribution of job opportunities. However, minorities are more responsive when the growing job opportunities are located in areas with greater same-racial/ethnic representation, suggesting that social constraints might play a role in the observed distributional mismatch. The analysis focuses on 25–54 year old men.

JEL classification: J61, J15, J18

Key words: racial labor market disparities, migration costs, Delta Index, social costs, place-based, people-based, mismatch


Research assistance from Ellyn Terry is much appreciated, and the authors thank David Altig, Stuart Andreason, Melissa Banzhaf, Benjamin Griffy, Jordan Herring, Osborne Jackson, Christos Makridis, Brent Meyer, Tom Mroz, Melinda Pitts, John Robertson, and participants of the economics seminar series at Lafayette College, the Federal Reserve System Regional Economics conference, and the FRBR Brownbag series for helpful comments and suggestions. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors’ responsibility.
Please address questions regarding content to Kalee E. Burns, Georgia State University and Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, P.O. Box 3992, Atlanta, GA 30302-3992, kburns8@student.gsu.edu, or Julie L. Hotchkiss (contact author), Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, GA 30309-4470, julie.l.hotchkiss@atl.frb.org, 404-498-8198.
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