Women’s Changing Commutes: The Work Trips of Single Mothers in the New York Region, 2000-2010

Authors: Valerie Preston*, York University, Monika Maciejewska, Autonomous University of Barcelona, McLafferty Sara, University of Illinois
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography, Gender
Keywords: transportation disadvantage, mode choice, gender, racial inequality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Tyler, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Single mothers are a critically important and growing segment of the U.S. workforce. As primary breadwinners and caregivers, single mothers shoulder a “double burden” that often constrains their access to job opportunities and reinforces their commuting challenges. Research shows that single mothers rely on public transit that is often slow, intermittent, and poorly developed outside city centers. Since 2000, rising land and housing costs in the city centers of many North American cities, and uneven job growth and infrastructural investment, have reinforced these transit challenges for single mothers by restricting their residential and commuting decisions. Previous research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s does not consider these shifting residential and workplace geographies or the distinctive transit needs of minority women whose work trips are also shaped by persistent segregation and labor market segmentation. We investigate geographical and race/ethnic disparities in public transit use for commuting among employed single mothers in the New York urban region by comparing their transit reliance across central, inner suburban, and suburban zones. Our analysis focuses on changes in transit use during the 2000s. Using census microdata from the 2000 and 2008-2012 PUMS, we analyze geographic and racial/ethnic inequalities in single mothers’ use of public transit and the socioeconomic and contextual factors that influence transit dependence. The results point to growing reliance on public transit for commuting among single mothers, especially minority women. Increasingly, single mothers live in inner suburban areas where poor transit service compounds the disadvantage associated with their low earnings and occupational segmentation.

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