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Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan

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Transportation Insecurity: Developing a measure to examine an understudied dimension of poverty

Social scientists and urban planners have long recognized that transportation plays a critical role in connecting people to opportunity. Indeed, reliable transportation is shown to be important for accessing jobs, schools, safer neighborhoods and better housing, health care, social services, and the voting booth. Yet research on these relationships has been limited by a gap between current measures and the complex reality of how under-resourced people travel.

This research draws on the researchers’ own qualitative observations to advance a novel concept, transportation insecurity, and develop a tool for measuring one’s ability to get to the places one needs to go regardless of mode of transportation or area of residence. This tool, referred to as the Transportation Security Index (TSI), will provide for a deeper understanding of the relationship between transportation and poverty than existing measures. It will be available for use in causal inference and to investigate the prevalence of transportation insecurity and will open up new lines of scholarly inquiry.

  • Alexandra Murphy, U-M Department of Sociology
  • Alix Gould-Werth, Washington Center for Equitable Growth