Transportation Access as a Barrier to Work

  • Date: 12/26/2023

Lack of a car can be a barrier to employment, particularly for low-income individuals. According to a 2022 survey conducted by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, almost 20 percent of individuals in that state who were able to work but were not currently working cited transportation as a barrier. Many studies have shown that ownership of a car (or a truck or motorcycle) increases the probability of work, especially among welfare recipients. And low-income individuals are the least likely to own a car and therefore must rely on other means of transportation, such as public transportation, ride services, bikes, or walking to get to work.

Moreover, users of public transportation tend to have lower incomes and longer commute times. (See "Transportation and Commuting Patterns: A View from the Fifth District," Econ Focus, Second/Third Quarter 2019.) While public transportation options typically exist in larger urban areas, those options become more limited farther outside an urban center.

In addition to needing access to a car, individuals also need to be able to legally drive it. Revoking driver's licenses can create additional barriers. Some research shows that lower-income individuals and minorities are most likely to have their licenses revoked. There are, however, some potential ways to mitigate barriers to transportation, including expanding or creating new public transportation options, providing access to financial and educational resources to help people purchase cars, and overturning laws that limit people's ability to drive the cars that they do have access to.

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