Means of Transportation to Work in the United States, 1990–2018


CLACLS Summer Research Fellowships 2021-2

New Study Finds That Car Use Among U.S. Latino Commuters Rose Sharply Between 1990 and 2018, While Public Transportation Use Declined.

NEW YORK, November 7, 2022—A new report published today by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York’s (CLACLS) shows that percentage of Latino commuters in the United States using their cars to get to and from work has increased significantly since 1990.

The report, titled “Means of Transportation to Work in the United States, 1990–2018” examines the trends in commuting among workers in the country focusing on disparities with respect to race and ethnicity, sex, marital status, income, and poverty status.

The percentage of Latinos who used cars to commute climbed from 79.8% to 85.3% between 1990 and 2018, while public transportation use among Latinos fell from 11.1% to 6.6% in the same period. Among non-Hispanic Blacks, car use for commuters went up from 77.5% to 82.5% over the same period, while public transportation use for the same group dropped five percentage points from 15.2% to 10.1%. These increases in car use and declines in public transportation among Latinos and non-Hispanic Blacks, contrast with non-Hispanic whites whose use of cars to commute fell from 88.6% in 1990 to 86.6% in 2018.

“With increasing gas prices and the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence on changing workspaces, these data suggest that Latino and non-Hispanic black workers are going to face more financial pressures when commuting to work,” said Dr. Sebastián Villamizar-Santamaría, the author of the report.

Other key findings:

  • More women worked at home than men. For example, 6.7% non-Hispanic white women workers in 2018 worked at home compared with 5.8% of non-Hispanic white men.

  • In terms of marital status, married workers used cars more than non-married workers. For example, in 2010, 89.0% of married workers with a spouse present used cars, compared to 81.5% of never married or single workers. Single or never married workers showed higher rates of commuting by public transportation or walking and working from home.

  • Except for people earning $200,000 or more, commuting by car was the most common mean of transportation. Because more money allows for workers to pay and maintain cars, it is not surprising that the lowest earners relied on public transportation, walking or working at home more compared to other income brackets. In 2000, 9.4% of those earning less than $10,000 used public transportation, but only 3.9% of those earning between $75,000 and $99,999 did. (All values are adjusted to 2018 dollars.)

  • Poverty status influenced the use of cars. In 1990, for example, 89.1% of workers not in poverty commuted by car compared to only 77.2% of workers in poverty. The inverse relationship was found in the use of public transportation or walking, where the percentage of workers in poverty who used these means was higher than those not in poverty: 8.7% and 4.8% respectively when using public transportation.

  • Because data during and after the COVID-19 was unavailable at the time of writing the report, working from home rates were relatively small at around 6%.

Contact Sebastián Villamizar-Santamaría, Director of Quantitative Research, for a PDF of the report at

About The Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies

The core mission of CLACLS is to actively support and advance the study of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latinos in the U.S. in the doctoral programs of The Graduate Center, and to provide opportunities for Latino students at the Ph.D. level. CLACLS’s flagship program is the Latino Data Project, established in 2003 by Laird W. Bergad founding and current CLACLS director. Bergad is a distinguished professor in the Department of Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at Lehman College and with the Ph.D. Program in History at The Graduate Center. The Latino Data Project conducts detailed quantitative research on the Latino population of the United States and New York City metropolitan region, analyzing raw data files produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

About The Graduate Center, CUNY

The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

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