The goal of the multi-year Wheels to Wealth project is to disseminate information to policy makers and the public regarding the positive role private automobile ownership plays in creating and strengthening economic opportunity for the low-income and welfare dependent population.

A journey toward self-reliance

Research has shown that automobile ownership is an empowering tool that can have a significantly positive effect on employment, especially for the low-skilled and low-income population. Numerous policy studies have concluded that owning a vehicle is a viable solution to transportation barriers to employment for low-income people. For example, Kerri Sullivan of Portland State University examined the effects of car ownership on employment and wages for adults without a high school diploma in Portland. She found that “Car ownership improved the likelihood of being employed by 80 percent. The effect on average weekly wages was approximately $275, and the effect on weeks worked was approximately 8.5 weeks.”

Automobile ownership also has the potential to reduce the employment gap between whites and minorities. According to Steve Raphael and Michael Stoll of UC-Berkeley and UCLA respectively, “. . . empirical estimates indicate that raising minority car-ownership rate would eliminate 45% of the black-white employment rate differential and 17% of the comparable Latino-White differential.”

Cascade believes that low-income families who struggle to make ends meet have the right to control their lives and careers. They should be the ones to choose how to manage their time between work and family. In Oregon, limited bus routes and schedules contribute to the challenges facing the low-income, transit-dependent population. Owning a car can make a whole lot of difference for them. It would directly benefit the lives of the neediest families in Oregon. Cascade hopes that encouraging assistance for low-income car ownership will lead to changes in various transportation and welfare policies that would benefit more people at a comparably lower cost.

Transportation should be the link, and not the barrier, to employment and self-sufficiency.