The Effects of Driver Licensing Laws on Immigrant Travel


Car use is critical to improving access to opportunities, especially for low-wage immigrants whose jobs are dispersed and when transit service is minimal. But many states have restricted the ability of undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, making it potentially difficult for them to improve their economic standing. The effects of these laws have been tested for their association with traffic safety but not on mode choice itself. Using the two most recent versions of the National Household Travel Survey, I fit a series of difference-in-difference models to estimate the effect of permissive immigrant driver licensing on travel outcomes. Permissive licensing increased the rate of giving rides by about 13% and increased the rate of getting a ride by about 6.5%, but changes to driving alone were insignificant. Results suggest permissive licensing has beneficial accessibility impacts for all immigrants in addition to the positive safety and economic externalities documented elsewhere.

Jesus M. Barajas
Jesus M. Barajas
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy