, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 441–461 | Cite as

Explaining the “immigrant effect” on auto use: the influences of neighborhoods and preferences



Since immigrants will account for most urban growth in the United States for the foreseeable future, better understanding their travel patterns is a critical task for transportation and land use planners. Immigrants initially travel in personal vehicles far less than the US-born, even when controlling for demographics, but their reliance on autos increases the longer they live in the US. Cultural or habitual differences, followed by assimilation to auto use, could partly explain this pattern; and it may also be partly due to changes in locations and characteristics of home and work neighborhoods. Previous studies have rarely investigated non-work travel, and have not tested workplace land use measures, compared the relative influences of enclave and home neighborhood measures, or looked at the role of culturally-bound residential preferences or motivations for migration. This study relies on a unique and rich dataset consisting of a survey of US residents born in South Asia, Latin America, and the US, joined to spatial information in a GIS. I find that the home built environment is the most consistently influential factor in explaining the lower auto use of both recent and settled Latin American immigrants. Indian immigrants use autos less than would be expected given their home and work neighborhoods. There is little evidence that either ethnic enclaves, or cultural differences, play a role in lower auto use by immigrants. These results suggest there may be a role for neighborhood built environment policies in delaying immigrant assimilation to auto use in the US.


Immigration Auto use Sustainability Built environment Location choice 



The New Jersey Department of Transportation provided the funding to design and conduct the survey. Marc Weiner of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research and Chintan Turakhia of SRBI (now ABT/SRBI) assisted with survey design and sampling design. Chintan Turakhia, David Ciemnecki, and numerous telephone interviewers in the SRBI call center implemented the survey. Stephanie DiPetrillo was the project manager. Nick Klein created the GIS measures of population and employment density and transit access; Matt Brill and Timmy Bolton did the same for grocery stores and restaurants, as well as enclave measures at the Census tract level using ACS data. Dan Tischler provided research assistance in occupation recoding. Timmy Bolton helped with data cleaning and recoding, and making tables. The article analyzes data that were originally described in a report co-authored with DiPetrillo and Klein. Many thanks for helpful comments from several readers including Nick Klein, Mike Manville, Joan Walker, Randy Crane, Bob Noland, anonymous reviewers from the Transportation Research Board’s Travel Behavior and Values Committee (ADB10), and three anonymous reviewers for Transportation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of City and Regional PlanningUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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