Racial Geographies: Locations of Temp Agencies in Chicago

Authors: Amy Schoenecker*, University of Illinois - Chicago, Elizabeth Alejo*, University of Illinois - Chicago
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Urban geography, labor geography, human geography, race and ethnicity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A significant feature of the neoliberal urban economy is the rise of contingent labor represented by casual, flexible, and low-paid work. While the unprecedented rise of this type of work has been well-documented, there is little research which investigates the geographies of temp agencies. This paper analyzes where temp agencies tend to locate, and whether or not these locational decisions have racial and ethnic components to them. Through a comparison of four neighborhoods in Chicago—the “Loop,” Englewood, Little Village, and Portage Park—we explore the kind, quality, and aesthetics of temp agency locations. Perhaps unsurprising, the research shows that these agencies are overrepresented in the “loop” or business district, dominated by high-end contract work, and conspicuously absent in poor Black neighborhoods. Such geographies of exclusion omit these groups of workers from even the low-skill of contingent work that temp agencies are typically associated with. As temporary and contract labor is an ever growing and significant part of urban economies, these findings present an alarming trend for communities of color.

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