A recent GAO study determined that during the 1990s almost three-fourths of all welfare recipients lived in central cities or rural areas, while in over 100 metropolitan places three-fourths of all jobs were located in the suburbs. ..."Spatial mismatch," that's a good way of putting it. And Waller argues that better public transportation systems won't necessarily solve this problem, partly because even the best bus lines can't go everywhere:
Bridging this spatial mismatch is difficult. ... Employers report that transportation is a major barrier to retaining former welfare recipients, or even hiring them in the first place.
[T]he effect of access to public transit on the likelihood of employment for welfare recipients is mixed at best. One recent study in six metro areas found that better access to public transit had no effect on employment for welfare recipients. Other research suggests that access to better public transit has a small effect on employment outcomes for welfare recipients who do not have access to a car.Car ownership, though, tends to be out of reach for many of these workers, especially since owning a car is usually much more expensive for low-income families than it is for everyone else (the poor need to pay, on average, $500 more to buy a car; they usually pay higher interest rates through subprime financing and the like; and insurance premiums are generally higher). Both President Clinton and, to some extent, Bush, have proposed a few very basic measures to help promote car-ownership—getting rid of rules that make it difficult for low-income car owners to qualify for food stamps, for instance—but Congress hasn't done anything about it yet.
By comparison, people with cars are more likely to work, and car ownership is positively associated with higher earnings and more work hours.