Alexandra K. Murphy, Karina McDonald-Lopez, Natasha Pilkauskas, and Alix Gould-Werth, “Transportation Insecurity in the United States: A Descriptive Portrait,” Socius, 2022
People wait in a bus shelter while snow falls. “People in Winter Clothes Standing on a Waiting Shed” by Ömer Faruk Yıldız is licensed under Pexels.

Transportation is essential for everyday responsibilities like grabbing groceries or getting to work on time. But securing transportation can be difficult, particularly for people who live below the poverty line. Sociological research typically considers how poverty interacts with factors such as health, housing, and neighborhood crime, but rarely mentions transportation necessities. 

In a new research study, Alexandra Murphy and colleagues introduce the term transportation insecurity to describe difficulty traveling between places in a safe or timely manner. Experiencing transportation insecurity can include having unreliable, unsafe, or untimely transportation, as well as the emotional strain that can come from transportation problems.

Transportation insecurity is even more prevalent for those living below the poverty line. 53% of impoverished Americans experienced this phenomenon. Impoverished Americans are also most likely to experience the most severe level of transportation insecurity which may entail a higher frequency of car troubles, longer commutes, or other unsafe and inconvenient transportation conditions.

Americans who do not own cars, live in cities, are younger in age, do not have a high school diploma, or are non-white, also experience transportation insecurity more frequently.

One in four people in the United States struggle to secure safe and timely transportation. Over half of poor Americans have unreliable, unsafe, or untimely transportation. Clearly, then, policy aimed at alleviating the challenges of living in poverty needs to address transportation insecurity.