Does transport help people to gain employment? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical evidence

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The role of transport in providing access to employment has received considerable attention. Since transport policies may be motivated by assumed effects on employment probability outcomes, it is important to establish the nature of the relationship between transport and employment outcomes. While the majority of the empirical evidence suggests a positive association, it is not conclusive or consistent and often shows mixed results. To address this confusion, our study has systematically reviewed this evidence base and synthesised it through meta-analysis. We first identified 93 studies that quantitatively assessed the impact of transport on employment outcomes. By systematically merging the empirical evidence, this study establishes a positive association between transport and employment outcomes, with varying effects for four identified categories of transport measures (or combinations thereof): car ownership, public transport access, commute times, and job accessibility levels. This positive association persists in studies that control for endogeneity between transport and employment, but a larger evidence base is needed to establish a more robust relationship, in particular for cities and smaller (rural) areas outside the US-context and with regard to public transport. We then selected 20 methodologically comparable studies for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Our meta-regression models clearly demonstrate that car ownership significantly increases individual employment probabilities, in particular among welfare recipients. Young drivers benefit from access to household cars when these are not in use by their parents, and they are more sensitive to the time and cost implications of longer commutes. While our systematic review suggests that better access to public transport and higher levels of job accessibility increases employment probabilities, meta-regression analysis requires more consistent transport measures. The findings in this study are important for policymakers in that they imply that job seekers may benefit from public policies targeted at improving their access to public transport, in particular for people without access to cars and in areas with fewer job opportunities.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-628
Number of pages22
JournalTransport Reviews
Issue number5
Early online date7 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020