Analysis of commuting distances of low-income workers in Memphis Metropolitan area, TN


The paper tests whether low-income workers suffer a greater commuting cost burden compared with a typical commuter within the context of decreasing economic opportunity. The paper adds to the spatial mismatch research by studying the metropolitan area in the U.S. South, which experienced "some of the largest decreases" in job proximity in 2012. Memphis, Tennessee, saw the disproportionately steep declines in the average employment opportunities within a typical commute distance experienced by low-income and minority residents. The paper first delineates low-income neighborhoods across the study area, then identifies commuting patterns within the three-state study area including the greater Memphis, and lastly, it compares average commute lengths by a typical and a low-income commuter, as well as the shares of resident workers with a long commute by earning category. The paper offers insight into the ways in which the changes in spatial location of employment and population within the metropolitan area may impact commuting distance for disadvantaged low-income travelers. We show low-income workers commute statistically significantly shorter distances to their places of work compared with a typical commuter. Our other results find that disadvantaged workers in Shelby County, TN, are disproportionately concentrated in lower-wage industries, such as hospitality and retail service industries, compared to overall workers. Finally, a significantly greater proportion of disadvantaged workers travel long distances of over 50 miles compared with higher-earning workers, indicating the disparity in commuting patterns between a typical resident and a low-income worker.

Publication Title

Sustainability (Switzerland)