Driving to the Breadline: The Auto Motives of Low Income Households

The Conference Board of Canada, January 16, 2018
Recorded Webinar
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Research conducted over the last few decades in many western countries confirms that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between transport poverty (i.e. lack of access to both private and public mobility resources) and social exclusion (inability to fully participate in life-enhancing activities).

In these contexts, households that do not own cars are overwhelmingly concentrated in the lowest income quintiles, where approximately only half of households own cars. For low income households with cars, mobility is still reduced -- they make significantly fewer trips and travel much shorter distances than their higher-income, car-owning counterparts.

The experience of reduced mobility often means that low income households are unable to fully participate in key activities, such as employment, education, health care and food shopping. It is perhaps for these reasons that car ownership among low-income households in the UK has increased more rapidly year on year than for other income brackets. Yet this statistical trend tells us very little about the actual motivations behind why people living on or near ‘the breadline’ (i.e. in poverty) are willing to commit so much of their limited financial resources to owning and running a private vehicle. They do so even when they find it difficult to afford other basic necessities, such as food, warmth, shelter and clothing. Much of transportation policy is based on the idea that low-income people do not own cars. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that this is no longer the case.

What does the experience of low-income car ownership mean for our work in transportation, and what lessons learned from other western countries can help guide our efforts here in Canada? Join transportation expert Karen Lucas as she explores these issues and discusses the ‘auto motives’ of low-income populations, by drawing on case study evidence from different geographical and social contexts over the last 20 yrs.

Webinar Highlights

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • What social exclusion is and how it relates to transportation;
  • The various motivations behind car ownership for low income households and individuals;
  • The opportunities and challenges of car ownership for people of limited financial means; and
  • Further research and policy measures required to help address these issues.

About Karen

Professor Karen Lucas. Professor of Transport and Social Analysis. University of Leeds, Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Karen is Professor of Transport and Social Analysis at the Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds. She has had 20 years of experience in social research in transport. She is a world-leading expert in the area of transport-related social exclusion. In 2015, she was given the Edward L. Ullman Award by the Transport Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers and in 2016 the University of Leeds Women of Achievement Award, both for her significant contribution to transportation geography. Karen is a regular advisor to national governments in the UK. In 2002, she was seconded to the Social Exclusion Unit for fourteen months to develop policies to address the transport exclusion of low-income and disadvantaged groups and communities. She subsequently worked for the Department of Transport to undertake pilot studies and develop the Guidance on Accessibility Planning that resulted from this study. Karen is also chair of the Special Interest Group on Cultural and Social Issues in Transport for the World Conference on Transport and Society (WCTRS)

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