Job Access, Commute, and Travel Burden Among Welfare Recipients

Welfare recipients face a number of obstacles to making the transition from welfare to work including their geographic separation from employment opportunities; many welfare recipients live in “job-poor” neighborhoods far from employment for which they are qualified. Combining administrative data on welfare recipients and employment in Los Angeles with data from the 1990 decennial census, we show that greater access to local jobs in low-wage firms increases the likelihood that welfare recipients find employment in neighborhood jobs. Moreover, welfare recipients who have long commutes earn less than those who find work closer to home, contrary to the pattern for most workers. These findings demonstrate that proximity to low-wage jobs benefits welfare recipients through reduced commuting expenses and increased earnings.

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