Alison's Writing Portfolio

No Exit –Part 2 (Mother Jones, 9/2005)

I’d written yesterday that I first became interested in the plight of the car-less in New Orleans last year. But actually, my interest in this subject traces back further. During college I spent one year at SUNY Oswego, in Central NY, where I lived within the evacuation zone of a nuclear power plant. I did not have a car, in fact, I did not have a driver’s license. (I didn’t get my license until I was 21, perhaps not an unusual experience for a New Yorker, but it definitely made me an oddity upstate.) It was my first experience living on my own, in my own apartment. As I’d walk under the emergency evacuation sirens– that luckily never sounded during the year I lived there– I wondered what I would do if they did go off. I figured I’d just start walking and hope that someone would give me a ride. It’s an unsettling feeling.

In an email to me today, my friend Wendy pointed out to me that from a sociological perspective, there’s definitely a connection between not having private transport, and income and therefore race. Of course, she’s right. While Whites are the most likely, in terms of number, to lack a car –nearly 6 million white households are without a vehicle. In percentage terms, it’s minorities that are the most likely to be in this endangered situation.

  • African American: Nearly three million households lack a vehicle, which translates to 22.5% of black households.
  • Hispanic: Just under 1.5 million do not have a vehicle, or 15.3%
  • Asian: About 400,000 without a vehicle, or 11.9%.
  • White: Almost 6 million households without a vehicle, or 7% .

(The source is the Census 2000 Supplementary survey –I did not find the data on one table, so if you want to know more, you’re going to do a lot of clicking around, but here’s where you’ll find the stats.)

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4 thoughts on “No Exit –Part 2 (Mother Jones, 9/2005)

  1. I’d like to see non-car-ownership cross-referenced with whether a census tract voted Democratic or Republican for Congress in 2004.

  2. Interesting that the overlap includes that weird Democratic spine up through the rural Miss. valley but not the rural New Mexico counties that tend to vote Democratic.

    But this highlights another question I like to ask: in the current political calculus, why should a government help those who did not vote for it? It’s pretty much been proven that one party can control the executive and legislative branches of government with 51% of the national vote. So why should or would they pay any attention to the needs of the other 49% of the people, except in occasional scenarios where it would please “their” 51%? (Yes, I’m obliquely arguing for proportional representation in Congress, but not like that’s going to happen.)

  3. I think that the problem here is that the voting rates among this group are low. Even if they did vote, the executive might be out of reach, but the legislature really ought not be.
    By the way: no need to key in an e-mail address unless you want to. Not that I’m not enjoying the new and creative protest addresses with each post! 😉

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