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Car today, gone tomorrow: The ephemeral car in low-income, immigrant and minority families

Abstract

Most transportation research in the United States uses cross-sectional, “snapshot” data to understand levels of car access. Might this cross-sectional approach mask considerable variation over time and within households? We use a panel dataset, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), for the years 1999–2011 to test this question. We find that for most families, being “carless” is a temporary condition. While 13 % of families in the US are carless in any given year, only 5 % of families are carless for all seven waves of data we examine in the PSID. We also find that poor families, immigrants, and people of color (particularly, blacks) are considerably more likely to transition into and out car ownership frequently and are less likely to have a car in any survey year than are non-poor families, the US-born, and whites.

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Acknowledgments

This material is based upon work supported by the US Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers Program under Grant Number DTRT12-G-UTC21.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the information presented herein. This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the US Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers Program, in the interest of information exchange. The US Government assumes no liability for the contents or use thereof.

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Correspondence to Nicholas J. Klein.

Appendix

Appendix

  Sample size
  1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
All families 7493 7887 8346 8718 8941 9308 9690
Poverty
 Families not in poverty 90 % 92 % 90 % 90 % 90 % 89 % 88 %
 Families in poverty 10 % 8 % 10 % 10 % 10 % 11 % 12 %
Nativity
 US-born families 91 % 92 % 90 % 90 % 90 % 89 % 90 %
 Foreign-born families 9 % 8 % 9 % 9 % 10 % 10 % 10 %
Race/ethnicity
 Non-Hispanic white 77 % 77 % 77 % 75 % 74 % 73 % 72 %
 Non-Hispanic black 13 % 13 % 13 % 14 % 14 % 15 % 15 %
 Non-Hispanic Asian 2 % 2 % 2 % 2 % 2 % 2 % 2 %
 Hispanic, any race 5 % 5 % 5 % 8 % 8 % 9 % 9 %
  1. We only include cases with information on auto ownership in the family
  2. Beginning in the 2005 survey, PSID changed the way they ask race and ethnicity questions, adding a new question about Hispanicity (Latino status). This likely resulted in the increase in Latino respondents between 2003 and 2005
  Mean number of cars in family
  1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
All families 1.64 1.67 1.69 1.63 1.68 1.65 1.59
Poverty
 Families not in poverty 1.73 1.76 1.79 1.74 1.78 1.76 1.71
 Families in poverty 0.80 0.79 0.78 0.69 0.77 0.75 0.72
Nativity
 US-born families 1.67 1.69 1.71 1.64 1.69 1.66 1.61
 Foreign-born families 1.36 1.52 1.54 1.52 1.58 1.57 1.46
Race/ethnicity
 Non-Hispanic white 1.76 1.77 1.79 1.73 1.77 1.76 1.69
 Non-Hispanic black 1.02 1.15 1.16 1.11 1.15 1.13 1.11
 Non-Hispanic Asian 1.57 1.71 1.66 1.63 1.72 1.61 1.54
 Hispanic, any race 1.34 1.59 1.61 1.60 1.69 1.68 1.58
  Mean car-to-adult ratio in family
  1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
All families 0.95 0.96 0.98 0.94 0.97 0.97 0.94
Poverty
 Families not in poverty 0.99 1.00 1.03 1.00 1.02 1.02 1.00
 Families in poverty 0.57 0.57 0.56 0.48 0.55 0.55 0.52
Nativity
 US-born families 0.97 0.98 1.01 0.96 0.99 0.99 0.96
 Foreign-born families 0.67 0.76 0.76 0.75 0.78 0.78 0.74
Race/ethnicity
 Non-Hispanic white 1.02 1.02 1.04 1.01 1.04 1.04 1.01
 Non-Hispanic black 0.63 0.69 0.73 0.70 0.74 0.74 0.75
 Non-Hispanic Asian 0.87 0.93 0.90 0.88 0.91 0.88 0.80
 Hispanic, any race 0.68 0.81 0.81 0.82 0.84 0.84 0.81
  Median family income (2011 $s)
  1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
All families $55,614 $57,058 $54,250 $54,024 $55,149 $52,936 $49,529
Poverty
 Families not in poverty $62,100 $61,701 $60,304 $60,690 $61,040 $59,280 $56,300
 Families in poverty $8848 $8646 $9180 $8925 $8481 $9023 $8500
Nativity
 US-born families $57,205 $58,410 $55,330 $54,740 $56,000 $53,285 $50,006
 Foreign-born families $41,896 $45,850 $45,360 $49,147 $48,020 $48,233 $41,719
Race/ethnicity
 Non-Hispanic white $62,238 $62,225 $59,750 $59,582 $59,808 $58,240 $55,380
 Non-Hispanic black $37,260 $37,990 $35,000 $34,397 $33,600 $31,954 $31,520
 Non-Hispanic Asian $65,357 $94,975 $81,625 $86,394 $84,000 $71,812 $82,000
 Hispanic, any race $38,640 $38,016 $38,750 $44,037 $47,040 $45,760 $39,000

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Klein, N.J., Smart, M.J. Car today, gone tomorrow: The ephemeral car in low-income, immigrant and minority families. Transportation 44, 495–510 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-015-9664-4

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Keywords

  • Car ownership
  • Panel data
  • Poverty
  • Immigration