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Title: Commute Distance and Ethnic Neighborhoods in Southern California

Author(s): Blumenberg, Evelyn, Michael Smart, and Andrew Lee

Published: 2010 by Transportation Research Board 89th Annual Meeting, Paper #10-3814

Online Access: http://pubsindex.trb.org/view.aspx?id=911281

Abstract: With their mix of ethnic residents, businesses, services, and community institutions, many ethnic neighborhoods typify the “mixed-use neighborhoods” and “traditional neighborhoods” canonized in the planning literature. The authors hypothesize, therefore, that residence in these ethnic neighborhoods will enable shorter trips, as more and diverse activity sites are located within the neighborhood itself. The authors rely on data for Southern California to estimate the effect of residence in ethnic neighborhoods on the length in miles of one type of trip—the commute—while controlling for other determinants of commute distance. The authors find a significant relationship between living in an ethnic neighborhood and commute distance, but that this effect varies by the jobs-richness of the neighborhood. However, the estimated effect does not operate in the hypothesized direction. In job-poor ethnic neighborhoods, the job sites of local residents are closer than those of residents in job-rich ethnic neighborhoods. This finding likely results from the changing nature of ethnic neighborhoods and, in particular, the growth of suburban ethnic enclaves where there are fewer jobs than in the central city but, perhaps, stronger matches between employment opportunities and the characteristics of the local work force.

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