Study: Transit Cuts Can Increase Poverty, Unemployment

An analysis of Clayton County, Georgia, which lost access to public transit for five years, shows a significant increase in unemployment rates and poverty during that timeframe.

2 minute read

April 19, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A new study from Clayton County, Georgia links a rise in unemployment and poverty to transit cuts, according to an article by Jared Brey in Governing. “The study’s findings support the ‘spatial mismatch’ theory, which holds that poor transit access leads to fewer job opportunities and lower incomes for residents.”

The study analyzed poverty and unemployment rates in the county during five years between 2010 and 2015 when the county had no bus service connecting it to Atlanta, making transit-dependent Clayton County residents unable to reach the city. “In the half-decade interim, the county endured “substantial increases in poverty and unemployment rates” which are explained by the loss of bus access, according to new research published last month in the journal Urban Studies.”

“In general, there’s strong evidence from a variety of research fields that transit access supports good economic outcomes, and that cuts to transit service are economically harmful,” but this study in particular provided a “rare opportunity” for a natural experiment. “It’s often hard to isolate the economic effects of certain events, like the pandemic or natural disasters, because they happen over large areas and affect lots of communities in the same way. But in the case of Clayton County, the researchers were able to compare census tracts that initially had bus access and then lost it with demographically similar tracts that weren’t affected by the cuts.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2023 in Governing

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