Accessibility and Economic Opportunity
55 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 1998
Date Written: February 1998
Over thirty years ago, researchers raised the possibility of an important link between transportation, jobs and prospects for the poor. Decentralized employment, centralized minorities and poor, and inadequate transportation links in between were the context of the urban riots of the 1960's and posited as a causal factor by researchers. Given federal mandates for large-scale movement of welfare recipients into jobs, whether--and to what extent--access affects employment is still of national importance. This paper reviews developments in both the spatial context and our understanding of its importance over the past thirty years.
Based primarily on Census data, we present evidence on changes in the spatial conditions facing the poor in terms of job access, transportation access, and commuting patterns. The trends suggest that some adjustments have alleviated while others heightened the mismatch. The overall picture of spatial isolation persists. We also review, rather selectively, literature on the importance of such access in determining employment outcomes. Our reading of the mixed findings is that we do have credible evidence that access matters, perhaps quite a bit, particularly for youth. Finally, we also review some of the transportation policy attempts to address this issue. From the policy perspective, however, the empirical evidence consistently shows that human capital and labor market conditions play a much more sizable role than does transportation per se.
JEL Classification: J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation