Editor's Notebook: CDC report finds 5.7 percent of adults lacked reliable transportation

Feb. 20, 2024
The analysis notes the lack of access to reliable transportation can lead to reduced access to health care.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the percentage of adults in the U.S. who lack access to reliable transportation for daily living. CDC used data from the 2022 National Health Interview Survey to determine who lacked access to transportation and where they lived.

The CDC’s analysis found in 2022, 5.7 percent of adults lacked reliable transportation for daily living in the past 12 months. A lack of reliable transportation was more likely to impact women (6.1 percent) than men (5.3 percent). The analysis also found that as age increased, the percentage of adults who lacked reliable transportation decreased, from 7 percent among adults ages 18–34 to 4.5 percent among adults ages 65 and older.

CDC found adults living in the West North Central region of the United States, which includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, were more likely to lack reliable transportation (7.5 percent) than the national average of 5.7 percent while adults in New England were less likely at 4.1 percent.

Another factor was education and income. The analysis found as education and income levels increase, there was a decrease in the level of adults who lacked access to reliable transportation. 

The analysis also broke down which populations were more likely to be impacted. American Indian and Alaska Native non-Hispanic adults were more likely to lack reliable transportation for daily living in the past 12 months (17.1 percent) compared with Asian non-Hispanic (3.6 percent), White non-Hispanic (4.8 percent), Hispanic (6.9 percent) and Other or multiple-race non-Hispanic (7.6 percent) adults.

Lack of access to transportation can mean a lack of access to employment opportunities and basic needs. CDC noted in its analysis that “previous research suggests that a lack of transportation, especially among adults who are older, uninsured and have lower incomes, leads to reduced access to health care, which may then lead to adverse health outcomes.”

Elsewhere on its website, CDC notes that “rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke than their urban counterparts.” 

While the analysis did not editorialize greater meaning beyond the data, it does shine a spotlight on the vital role rural and tribal transit systems play in mobility – both geographic and economic. A 2014 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis found federal support for these programs was essential to their continuing operation. The GAO report found that without federal support, rural and tribal transit operators would be required to reduce or eliminate services. 

As we start an election year, advocacy efforts for the transit industry will increase. Please make sure the value rural and tribal systems bring to their communities is shared with elected officials at every level of government. These systems are lifelines and, based on the CDC analysis linking transportation access to healthcare access, this is a literal statement.  

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.