Does Access to Jobs Affect Housing Location Choices of Low-Income Households?

Does Access to Jobs Affect Housing Location Choices of Low-Income Households?
Lingqian Hu, Liming Wang
Housing Studies
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Historically, low-income households have concentrated in inner cities because of limited housing options, housing market discrimination, and other economic conditions. But in recent decades, they have moved outward to different parts of metropolitan areas. In their new study, Lingqian Hu and Liming Wang explore whether access to jobs affects where working low-income households live. The authors use household data in eight counties in the Chicago metropolitan area, focusing on households with family income below the federal poverty level who moved within the past year. The authors calculated job accessibility in each census tract, considering the demand and supply of jobs surrounding the census tract and automobile and transit travel time between census tracts. Their findings show the importance of job accessibility for low-income households with limited transit but a strong need for job access and are an initial step toward understanding the specific needs of low-income households, including where they want to live, the housing limitations they face, and the locational attributes they value. The authors suggest that future housing policies should consider proximity to job opportunities and facilitate transit access, particularly for working low-income households.

Key findings

  • The effects of job accessibility on household location depend on households’ automobile ownership and employment status.
  • Places with higher job accessibility by public transit are more likely to attract low-income households that do not own cars but have at least one employed worker, demonstrating that job accessibility by transit affects their housing location choice.
  • For low-income households with an automobile, job access by automobile does not affect housing location.