MTI Report 01-23
The Travel Behavior and Needs of the Poor: A Study of Welfare Recipients in Fresno County, California

Principal Investigator: Evelyn Blumenberg

This study confirms that the transportation barriers facing welfare recipients are not experienced exclusively by welfare recipients living in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Many of the barriers are widespread. Similar to welfare recipients in large urban areas, welfare recipients in Fresno County who report the greatest travel difficulties are those who are transit dependent and those who are traveling to many unfamiliar destinations while searching for employment. Most welfare recipients find that their travel to childcare is relatively easy. However, welfare recipients who use childcare centers and homes report greater travel difficulties compared to those who rely for care on relatives, friends, or neighbors. In addition, relative to other commuters, welfare participants more frequently travel during off-peak hours when transit service may be limited


The passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 fundamentally transformed the provision of social assistance in the United States. Gone is Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a program that entitled needy families with children to an array of benefits and public services. In its place is Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), a program that abolishes federal entitlements, provides flexible block grants to the states, mandates tough new work requirements, and imposes a five-year lifetime limit on the receipt of public assistance. Current welfare programs mandate employment for most recipients and offer temporary financial aid and short-term employment assistance to help recipients transition into the labor market.

As a result of this fundamental restructuring of the U.S. welfare system, millions of welfare recipients are required to enter the paid labor market. Public agencies must establish programs to transition recipients into the labor market or risk dramatic increases in poverty rates. A growing number of studies suggest that reliable transportation-whether automobiles or public transit-is essential to linking welfare participants to employment opportunities.

The purpose of this study is to:

  • Understand the travel behavior of welfare participants;

  • Examine strategies by which welfare participants overcome their transportation barriers;

  • Identify the transportation needs of welfare participants living in the Central Valley;

  • Examine the relationship between access to reliable transportation and employment status; and

  • Develop a set of policy and planning recommendations to improve the transportation options of welfare recipients and other low-wage workers living in smaller, more rural, metropolitan areas.



Evelyn Blumenberg, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at theĀ  University of California, Los Angeles, where she teaches courses on planning history and theory, urban policy, gender and urban planning, and social policy. She received her undergrad degree (what and where), and her Ph.D. in Urban Planning from UCLA. Dr. Blumenberg’s research interests include transportation of the disadvantaged, rural and urban transportation planning, and labor and industrial relations.


MTI Report 01-23
The Travel Behavior and Needs of the Poor: A Study of Welfare Recipients in Fresno County,
Principal Investigator: Evelyn Blumenberg
Published: December 2001
Keywords: Advocacy groups; Employment; Rural transportation; Transportation disadvantaged persons; Transportation planning
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