The Frontier Centre today released a study on the impact of automobile ownership on employment possibilities and income. The study looks at how some government policies may be a barrier to automobile ownership and thus employment. It also investigates innovative programs in government and non-profit agencies in the United States where a lack of access to transportation among poorer Americans has been partly remedied with low-cost or free automobiles.
The study, The Road Out of Poverty:Lowering Barriers to Employment Through Automobile Ownership by Peter Shawn Taylor, found the following:
• U.S. research shows that welfare recipients with access to a car are able to reach 59 times more employment opportunities than welfare recipients forced to rely on the bus alone.
• One U.S. study found the employment rate for California adults with cars was nearly 80 per cent, while the employment rate for those without cars was 53 per cent.
• Car owners worked 13 hours more per week than non-owners did.
• A study of non-high school graduates in the United States found that owning a car was as important to finding a job as was a high school equivalency degree.
• Car ownership boosted the employment rate of subjects by 80 per cent and raised
weekly earnings by U.S.$275.
• Among social assistance recipients in Saskatchewan, 38 per cent reported that finding reliable transportation to work was a barrier to employment.
“In Canada, almost no attention has been paid to this issue in the academic literature
or within the non-profit or public sectors,” writes Taylor. “In addition, the four largest provinces continue to impose vehicle asset tests as a requirement for social assistance eligibility. In Canada, much can be done to improve automobility.”
In term of possible remedies, the study notes the following examples from the United States and the United Kingdom:
• A 2006 review of the Good News Garage program in the United States, which provides donated cars to single mothers on welfare, found one-third of its clients were no longer receiving social assistance one year after getting a car.
• In the United States, there are currently over 170 non-profit, charitable programs engaged in helping low-income Americans gain access to cars. Similar programs in Britain provide low-cost scooters to help low-income individuals get to work.
The Road Out of Poverty recommends more academic research into automobility issues using Canadian data; that Canadian non-profit organizations should investigate the feasibility of implementing programs in the style of U.S.; that provinces that currently impose vehicle asset limits —British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec—should remove them; that all new policies with implications for transportation and car ownership should be evaluated for their potential impact on automobility among low-income Canadians.
“Policies adopted for environmental or economic stimulus reasons could have unintended effects on car ownership rates and create further transportation barriers to employment,” notes Taylor.
Copies of the Frontier Centre study The Road Out of Poverty can be downloaded free here: http://archive.fcpp.org/main/publication_detail.php?PubID=2964.
For more information, contact the study author at:
Peter Shawn Taylor
Office: 519-884-7692 (Waterloo, Ontario)
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