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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cars, buses, and jobs: Welfare Participants and Employment Access in Los Angeles


Some studies suggest that, among other obstacles to employment, welfare participants face a spatial separation from jobs and other employment-related services. Using data on welfare participants, low-wage jobs, and public transit in Los Angeles County, this study examines the relative access that welfare participants have to employment opportunities. Our analysis shows that welfare participants' access to employment varies dramatically depending on their residential location and commute mode. Many welfare participants live in job-rich neighborhoods and are able to reach many jobs without difficulty by either car or public transit. However, other welfare participants live in job-poor neighborhoods where a reliance on public transit significantly reduces their access to employment. In these neighborhoods, long and unreliable commutes on public transit often severely limit their ability to find and reliably travel to and from work. Therefore, given the distinctly uneven patterns of employment opportunities in metropolitan areas, policies to address the transportation needs of welfare participants should be targeted to reflect the characteristics of the neighborhoods in which welfare participants live.

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