Job Accessibility and Welfare Usage: Evidence from Los Angeles

Previous scholars have explored the effects of local labor market conditions on welfare usage. However, none of these studies use direct measures of geographic access to nearby jobs. Responding to this limitation, our research combines data from the 1990 Census with three administrative data sets to examine the effect of geographic job access — defined as the relative supply of low-wage jobs located within a 3-mile radius of a census tract — on welfare usage rates in Los Angeles. After controlling for other characteristics likely to affect welfare behavior, we find that welfare usage declines as geographic job access increases. This relationship holds not only among poor African Americans, the subject of much of the scholarship on job access and economic opportunity, but also among Whites, Asians, and Hispanics.

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