Thus, the premise of this study stems from the ongoing political debate concerning “the right way to fix welfare” and the work of Leete and Bania. One objective of this study is to defend, refine, and further develop the methodology for ranking occupations in a given geographic location as developed by Leete and Bania (1995a). This is done by showing that the DOL data can be useful in determining the effects of technology on the skills and education requirements of occupation categories in the labor market.
In addition to this objective, there are two other end products expected from this study. The first is to provide a ranking, based on education and job skills content, of occupation categories specific to the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The second end product is to assess the employment opportunities in the MSA for low-skilled, public housing neighborhood residents to show that a skills mismatch does exist in the MSA.
This study is important because it provides public and private policy makers with the starting point for determining the presence and the extent of the skills and spatial mismatches which exist between low-skilled public assistance recipients, and other low-skilled workers, and employment opportunities found in the MSA, or any other geographic area. The results from this study can also serve as a foundation upon which local, regional, and state economic development programs can build by providing a much needed methodology for characterizing and comparing the occupational characteristics of labor market demand with supply.
Understanding that skills and spatial mismatches exist is extremely important in the context of welfare reform. Public and private sector officials must develop programmatic policy to: (1) provide the types of education and skills that are needed in the labor supply to meet the changing skill requirements of local labor market occupations; and (2) ameliorate the involuntary limitations placed on the low-skilled labor supply by labor market demand. These limitations occur in the form of increasing financial and opportunity costs as individuals have to travel greater distances from where they live to find available and suitable work.