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Transportation barriers are regularly identified as persistent challenges to finding, securing and maintaining employment for lower-income workers and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants. Specific barriers include a mismatch between the location of jobs and affordable housing, access to reliable automobiles, limited public transportation routes, and lack of adequate coverage for shift, “off hours,” and weekend schedules. Research on these key issues is featured in the Transportation section of the SSRC, along with resources on different types of programs, such as car ownership programs, transportation subsidies, travel vouchers, and other State and local approaches to transportation access for low-income individuals.
View recommendations from the SSRC Librarian on Transportation and relevant federal laws and regulations below.
Lack of access to reliable transportation--whether public transit or a privately owned car--can pose significant challenges for low-income individuals, especially those in rural areas, seeking stable employment. In response, community-based organizations and federal agencies have developed programs which provide transportation subsidies and vouchers to assist low-income individuals in traveling to job interviews and jobs. Subsidies and vouchers offered vary by program, with some programs providing support for purchasing a used car and others providing funds for public transit fares, gas, and/or repairs. Click the phrase below to view selected research and resources on transportation subsidies and vouchers.
Below are selections from the SSRC Library on programs which provide Transportation Subsidies and Vouchers to low-income individuals. Click the titles to learn more about the research.
Researchers argue that transportation expenditures impose a heavy burden on low-income households, many of whom experience difficulty managing their travel costs. However, relatively little research explores how low-income households manage their mobility needs. To address this issue, this study uses qualitative data from interviews with 73 low-income people living in and around San Jose, California. The interviews reveal the resiliency of low-income families in creatively managing their transportation costs. However, the transportation survival strategies of the poor can come at a high price—fewer miles traveled and, therefore, reduced access to opportunities that may lift them out of poverty. (author abstract)
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sponsored two major experiments to test whether housing choice vouchers propelled low-income households into greater economic security, the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing program (MTO) and the Welfare to Work Voucher program (WTW). Using data from these programs, this study examines differences in residential location and employment outcomes between voucher recipients with access to automobiles and those without. Overall, the findings underscore the positive role of automobiles in outcomes for housing voucher participants. (author abstract)
In urban areas job vacancies often exist but poor, minority residents tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with limited geographic access to these jobs. Using a randomized field experiment with public transit subsidies, the author tests whether this spatial mismatch of workers from jobs causes poor labor market outcomes. (author abstract)
Legislative and regulatory requirements frame allowable programs and initiatives designed to increase low-income individuals' access to affordable, reliable transportation. Click the first link below to view legislative resources specific to transportation programs. Click the second link to browse additional self-sufficiency legislation and policy in the SSRC library.