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Workers’ earnings and how they commute to work

by Michael Sivak.

The American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey by the US Census Bureau, includes estimates of how workers commute. This analysis examines the relation between earnings and commuting patterns. The 2016 data are shown in the table below. The entries are percentages.

Sivak

Driving alone is most likely (at 81.4%) for those earning between $50,0000 and $64,999, and this percentage decreases as earnings decrease or increase. Driving alone is least likely (at 66.1%) for those earning the least.

Carpooling is most likely (at 12.5%) for those earning the least, and this percentage decreases as earnings increase. Carpooling is least likely (at 5.8%) for those earning the most.

Using public transportation is least likely (at 3.9%) for those earning between $35,000 and $49,999, and this percentage increases as earnings decrease or increase. Using public transportation is most likely (at 6.6%) for those earning the most.

Walking is least likely (at 1.4%) for those earning between $65,000 and $74,999, and this percentage increases as earnings decrease or increase. Walking is most likely (at 6.5%) for those earning the least.

Working from home is least likely (at 3.7%) for those earning between $25,000 and $49,999, and this percentage increases as earnings decrease or increase. Working from home is most likely (at 7.5%) for those earning the most.

In comparison to those earning the most, those earning the least are about 1.2 times less likely to drive alone, use public transportation, and work from home, but 2.2 times more likely to carpool and 3.6 time more likely to walk.

How much the obtained patterns reflect necessity versus choice cannot be ascertained from these data. However, those who earn more generally have more choices available.

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.

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