Disability, wages, and commuting in New York

Sandy Wong, Sara L. McLafferty, Arrianna M. Planey, Valerie A. Preston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the U.S., substantial employment and wage gaps persist between workers with and without disabilities. A lack of accessible transportation is often cited as a barrier to employment in higher wage jobs for people with disabilities, but little is known about the intraurban commuting patterns of employed people with disabilities in relation to their wage earnings. Our study compares wages and commute times between workers with and without disabilities in the New York metropolitan region and identifies the intraurban zones where residents experience higher inequities in wage earnings and commute times. We obtained our data from the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) of the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 2008–2012 time period. We used linear mixed-effects models and generated separate models with log hourly wage or one-way commute time as the dependent variable. We find significant differences in wages and commute times between workers with and without disabilities at the scale of the metropolitan region as well as by intraurban zone. At the metropolitan scale, disabled workers earn 16.6% less and commute one minute longer on average than non-disabled workers. High commute and wage inequalities converge in the center, where workers with disabilities are more likely to use public transit, earn 17.1% less, and travel nearly four minutes longer on average than workers without disabilities. These results suggest that transport options are less accessible and slower for disabled workers than they are for non-disabled workers. Our findings indicate a need for more accessible and quicker forms of transportation in the center along with an increased availability of centrally located and affordable housing to reduce the disability gap in wages and commute times. We also find that workers with disabilities generally seek higher wages in exchange for longer commute times, but the results differ by race/ethnicity and gender. Compared to white men, minority workers earn much less, and white and Hispanic women have significantly shorter commute times. Our findings offer new geographic insights on how having a disability can influence wage earnings and commute times for workers in different intraurban zones in the New York metropolitan region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102818
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Commute time
  • Disability
  • Intraurban commuting
  • New York
  • Wages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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