Cars Are Key to Reducing Poverty

Many advocates for new ways of thinking about places and streets argue for reduced use of cars as the dominant mode of transportation. A new study finds, however that poverty is improved when the poor have access to a car for transportation.

Emily Badger reports on a new study called "Driving to Opportunity" by researchers at the Urban Institute, the University of Maryland and UCLA. The studies followed families in ten cities that participated in two federal voucher programs, the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing program, and the Welfare to Work Voucher program, which provide access to “stable housing and high-quality neighborhoods.”

The key findings of the study, as explained by Badger: “The families with cars moved to neighborhoods with less poverty and were more likely to stay there. They lived in neighborhoods with less unemployment, higher median rents, more access to green space and lower levels of cancer risk. Controlling for other factors influencing their residential mobility, these families also lived by the end of the survey in neighborhoods with better-performing schools.”

The article gives many more details on the report, a thorough treatment of the many policy implications for the report, and considers the many possible causes for the findings, one of which is that transit service is rarely reliable enough to trust for getting to and from work on time. Badger also suggests the following rational policy proposal: “A more effective poverty reduction policy might consider that families need both decent housing and a way to get from that home in the morning to school and work and back again.”

Full Story: Why the poor need better access to cars

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