Study Finds Latino Immigrants are Best Commuters
EGP News Service, News Report, Staff Posted: Aug 17, 2005
LOS ANGELES -- The next time you are trying to find a scapegoat for the terrible traffic problems that plague the state of California, the immigrant Latino community should be the last place you look.
According to a new study from the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, the state's roads would be far less congested if more people adopted recent Latino immigrants' commuting habits.
The study shows that recent immigrants to the United States are seven times more likely to use public transportation to go to work, and five times likelier to carpool to work, than are non-Hispanic whites. If everyone adopted these same patterns, the number of single-occupant vehicles congesting the state's roads could be slashed by nearly half.
“Population changes in the last 10 years in Los Angeles have resulted primarily from an increase in U.S.-born Latino births and, to a lesser extent, immigration of Latinos,” said David E. Hayes-Bautista, UCLA professor of medicine and the center's director. “However, data clearly shows that recent immigrants are not contributing to traffic congestion the way earlier in-migrant groups have.”
The researchers examined the driving habits of four employed groups: non-Hispanic whites, U.S.-born Latinos, long-term immigrant Latinos (defined as those who entered the U.S. prior to 1995) and recent immigrant Latinos (who entered the U.S. between 1995 and 2000).
“The trip to work is the most important trip most Californians make in any given day. It turns out that different groups in this state have vastly different patterns in getting to work,” said Iya Kahramanian, a co-author of the study.
The study found that 20.4 percent of recent immigrants use public transportation to travel to work, compared with 8.6 percent of long-term immigrants, 4.4 percent of U.S.-born Latinos and 3.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
The researchers also discovered that 56.7 percent of recent immigrants carpool to work, compared with 29.5 percent of long-term immigrants, 19.2 percent of U.S.-born Latinos and 11.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
“Beyond its personal economic benefits, carpooling is environmentally friendly and has the potential to dramatically reduce traffic congestion,” said Jessica Iglesias, a co-author of the study.
Currently, some 10.4 million single-occupant vehicles crowd the state's roads on a typical workday, according to the study. This number would be slashed to 5.4 million vehicles, a 47.7 percent reduction, if all commuters followed recent Latino immigrants' lead and used public transportation or carpooled to work, the researchers found.
Furthermore, the number of single-occupant vehicles would fall to about 8.8 million, down 15 percent, if commuters used carpooling and public transportation the way long-term Latino immigrants do. Finally, the number of cars would fall by 2.8 percent to about 10.1 million if commuters adopted U.S.-born Latinos' commuting practices.
“Clearly, these immigrants are not contributing to the traffic congestion in the same way that in-migrants from the Midwest did in the 1945-65 era,” the researchers wrote. “Indeed if all commuters exhibited the same transportation patterns as recent immigrants, the positive effects on the state's highways would be remarkable.”
The researchers used data from the 2000 U.S. Census Public Use Microdata Sample for the report.
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