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.)