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Hard Traveling: Commuting Costs and Urban Unemployment with Deficient Labor Demand


  • Alexei Abrahams

    (Princeton University)


To alleviate urban unemployment, the urban labor literature advocates facilitating labor flow from residential neighborhoods to commercial centers. This supply-side solution reflects the literature's pervasive assumption of robust labor demand. There are many contexts, however, particularly in the developing world, where labor demand is deficient. Local improvements to connectivity, we argue, will then struggle to stimulate employment. Conversely, local adverse shocks to connectivity will not exacerbate unemployment, since the preexisting stock of unemployed laborers will absorb the shocks distributionally. We demonstrate this latter claim with geospatial data from the West Bank, where the overall political milieu plausibly inhibits labor demand. We ï¬ nd the deployment of Israeli army checkpoints and roadblocks obstructed peri-urban Palestinian commuters from accessing commercial centers, causing employment losses that were offset by employment gains among their more centrally located competitors. The ï¬ nding casts doubt on the efficacy of connectivity initiatives to mitigate urban unemployment absent concomitant efforts to unshackle demand.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexei Abrahams, 2018. "Hard Traveling: Commuting Costs and Urban Unemployment with Deficient Labor Demand," Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) Working Papers 8, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:esocpu:8

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    Cited by:

    1. Aziz Atamanov & Nethra Palaniswamy, 2019. "Poverty Map of the Palestinian Territories," World Bank Other Operational Studies 33374, The World Bank.
    2. Belal Fallah & Ayhab Saad, 2018. "Schooling Choices’ Responses to Labor Market Shocks: Evidence From a Natural Experiment," Working Papers 1227, Economic Research Forum, revised 18 Sep 2018.

    More about this item


    West Bank; Palestine; Israel; Urban unemployment; connectivity; MENA; distributional impacts;

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R40 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - General
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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