The Travel Behavior and Needs of the Poor: A Study of Welfare Recipients in Fresno County, California

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The Travel Behavior and Needs of the Poor: A Study of Welfare Recipients in Fresno County, California


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, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the 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 PhD 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.

May 2002
Advocacy groups
Rural transportation
Transportation disadvantaged persons
Transportation planning



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