In the driving seat? Precarity and car dependency.


Research findings from the DEMAND Centre explore how uncertainty around jobs and accommodation (precarity) can lead to car dependence for some despite the expense and environmental concerns.

Precarity in housing and employment

A new DEMAND Research Insight entitled ‘Precarity in housing and employment: a dimension of car dependency’ highlights the way in which people with short term work (or whose workplaces change) rely on cars to be available to work in different, sometimes far-away locations at short notice that are not accessible by public transport. The precarity of housing, – e.g. being moved by local authorities or evicted by rental landlords – can be another cause of this problem, making cars a necessity despite the high running costs. The research has been carried out by Dr Caroline Mullen and Dr Greg Marsden at the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies.

Lifestyle choices?

The researchers note that these issues should be borne in mind when governments and local authorities introduce schemes to encourage using public transport, walking or buying low-emissions vehicles. These initiatives may assume that people have a simple lifestyle choice to make regarding whether to walk, drive or use public transport but the reality can be far more complex. Walking, cycling and public transport may not be feasible, and the benefits of using low emissions vehicles (lower fuel costs, reduced tax and parking fees etc.) can only be accessed by those with the means to buy newer cars. Equally, people don’t necessarily have unlimited choice as to where they live or work and may have to go wherever work and accommodation are available.

Going forward?

This Research Insight brings to the fore the interconnectedness of issues of work, housing and employment that need to be addressed together rather than in individual silos if ground is to be gained in the reduction of carbon emissions. More needs to be understood about why people use the forms of transport and how it fits into the larger systems of society in order to get a clearer idea of how these patterns can be changed.


Read the full Research Insight on the DEMAND website

Contact Dr Caroline Mullen, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds.

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