UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Study explores metro car ownership patterns, race, segregation and disaster planning

– The segregation and low car ownership rates of pre-Katrina New Orleans are repeated in all major U.S. cities and should be taken into account in emergency evacuation plans, says a new study being presented today (Thursday, March 23) at a University of California, Berkeley, symposium.

Steven Raphael, an associate dean and associate professor of public policy at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, is delivering the report he wrote with Alan Berube, a fellow in the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, at the Berkeley Symposium on Real Estate, Catastrophic Risk and Public Policy.

"The results suggest that cities facing risks requiring evacuation cannot completely depend on decentralized, private evacuation strategies," their report says.

The two used 2000 U.S. Census data to look at the number of households with and without cars in cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York. Most cities have a substantial population without access to cars, they say in their study.

"Individuals in these households are more likely to be poor and minority and are perhaps the most likely to be left behind in the event of an emergency evacuation," the report says.

The researchers found large disparities in car ownership between whites and blacks, and even among the poor, black households are much less likely to have a car.

In addition, they report that low black car ownership rates and racial housing segregation concentrate poor minorities in neighborhoods where many residents don't have access to an automobile.

Raphael said in an interview that even though racial segregation isn't new, many people don't appreciate the extent of segregation existing in major metropolitan areas across the country.

"It (segregation) is a factor of American life in U.S. cities," he said.

African Americans have the lowest car ownership of all racial and ethnic groups in the country, the researchers say, with 19 percent living in homes in which no one owns a car. That compares to 4.6 percent of whites in homes with no car, 13.7 percent of Latinos, and 9.6 percent of the remaining groups combined.

While 8 percent of Americans overall live in a home without access to a car, Raphael and Berube say nine of the 10 cities with the highest percentage of residents with no car are on the East Coast. The top 10 include the metropolitan areas included New York City (with 42 percent of residents with no car), Jersey City (30 percent), Waterbury, Conn. (16 percent), New Orleans(14 percent), Philadelphia (13 percent), Newark (12 percent), San Francisco (12 percent), Chicago (11 percent) and Los Angeles (11 percent).

Raphael noted that some South Florida cities that have extensive experience with disasters ranging from fire to hurricanes monitor car ownership statistics and have emergency plans that feature sending public transportation to neighborhoods where car ownership is low.

The symposium is being held at the Alumni House on campus. Raphael will deliver his report at 3:15 p.m.

More information about the event is online at: http://urbanpolicy.berkeley.edu/pdf/06symposium.abstracts.pdf.