Nicholas J. Klein: Disentangling the Role of Cars and Transit in Employment and Earnings

Nicholas J. Klein's research contributes to two central areas of transportation planning — understanding the factors that influence how people travel on a daily basis, and how these changes play out over the course of their lives. His work focuses on marginalized populations and neighborhoods that use transit, walk, and bike at high rates. By studying factors that influence how people in these communities travel on a daily basis and how their travel evolves over many years, his work offers new perspectives for planners, policymakers, and researchers on issues of equity and sustainability in transportation.

Klein received his Ph.D. from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, a master's degree in urban spatial analytics from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor's degree in operations research and industrial engineering from Cornell University.


In this presentation, Klein examines the relationship between transportation access and improved economic outcomes for individuals. He attempts to disentangle the mechanisms by which individuals improve their economic standing and compare the economic benefits to the direct costs of car ownership. To do this, he uses eight waves from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1999 to 2013.

Klein finds that access to a car is a strong predictor of future economic benefit for families, and that at high levels of transit access, families can also fare equally well. Access to an automobile is a strong predictor of employment, job retention, and earning more money over time. Though having a car is associated with economic benefits, owning and operating a car is expensive and it is not clear that the income gains outstrip the costs.