Friday, April 04, 2014

Urban Institute study: Poor people need cars

From an Urban Institute study, Driving to Opportunity, on transportation options and housing voucher recipients:

* Over time, households with automobiles experience less exposure to poverty and are less likely to return to high-poverty neighborhoods than those without car access.

* Among those relocating from their baseline neighborhoods, program participants with access to automobiles moved to areas with lower concentrations of poverty, higher concentrations of employed adults, higher median rents, more owner-occupied housing, lower vacancy rates, greater access to open space, and lower levels of cancer risk.

* When we control for other factors influencing residential mobility, program participants with access to automobiles move to neighborhoods with higher levels of school performance by the time of the final survey.

* Access to vehicles positively influences neighborhood satisfaction, particularly in neighborhoods with low levels of transit...

* Keeping or gaining access to automobiles is positively related to the likelihood of employment.

* On earnings, both cars and transit access have a positive effect, though the effect for auto ownership is considerably greater...

Our findings underscore the positive role of automobiles in outcomes for housing voucher participants. Automobiles increase the likelihood that voucher participants will live and remain in high-opportunity neighborhoods—neighborhoods with lower poverty rates, higher social status, stronger housing markets, and lower health risks than neighborhoods in which those without cars live. 

Cars are also associated with improved neighborhood satisfaction and better employment outcomes. The importance of automobiles arises not because of the inherent superiority of the mode, but because public transit systems in most metropolitan areas are slow, inconvenient, and lack sufficient metropolitan-wide coverage to rival the automobile...

Cars facilitate searching for and commuting to jobs and therefore increase the likelihood of finding and retaining employment. Conversely, employment can provide households with the necessary resources to purchase automobiles; income is one of the strongest correlates of automobile ownership

The importance of automobiles to employment persists even in studies that control for the simultaneity of car ownership and employment decisions. In general, automobile ownership is associated with higher employment rates, weekly hours worked, and hourly earnings. Automobile ownership also reduces racial disparities in employment rates and unemployment duration.

Automobiles can be particularly important for low-income women who often juggle paid work with household-serving responsibilities and would benefit greatly from the flexibility offered by driving. Many studies have examined the effect of automobile ownership on outcomes for welfare participants—largely poor, female-headed households. These studies produce similar results: a positive association between household automobiles and employment rates, the likelihood of leaving welfare, and an increase in earned income.

For low-income households without access to automobiles, public transit is essential, which is why many of them choose to live in dense, transit-rich urban neighborhoods. However, despite transit’s importance, findings on the relationship between public transit and employment outcomes are mixed, likely because employment access by public transit—even in the transit-richest of urban areas—still pales in comparison to access by automobile...

Thanks to Atlantic Cities for the link.

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