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This important part of a community can help eradicate poverty
New research indicates that easier access to transportation could be a vital step in eliminating poverty. - photo by JJ Feinauer
As it turns out, how people get around has a huge impact on their financial well-being.

A new major study published by Harvard University has found that for millions of Americans, the neighborhood you grow up in is a major indicator of future income. Because of this, "social mobility should be tackled at a local level by improving childhood environments," the researchers conclude.

One important part of a community that cultivates upward mobility, according to the researchers, is easy access to public transportation. Commuting costs can be a major drain on families struggling to make ends meet, they found, and more access to transportation can make a substantive difference.

"The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community," The Upshot's Mikayla Bouchard wrote in her analysis of the Harvard study, quoting one of the researchers on the study, Nathaniel Hendren.

Similarly, a separate study by researchers Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti found that access to transportation is one of the reasons cities are so important in the fight against poverty. When workers live in or near "high productivity" cities (like New York, San Francisco and San Jose, all of which the study cites specifically) they are more likely to have access to work that suits their needs and training.

The problem? Not everyone who could use a new job lives in or near the city, and cities typically cost a lot more to live in.

"More Americans should be living and working in and near high productivity cities," The American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis wrote in response to the Hsieh and Moretti study. "Even a better bus system would be a good start."

Another approach to improving transportation, which would help lower poverty rates (theoretically), would be to completely rethink how we design our cities in the first place.

As Vox's Matthew Yglesias wrote on May 5, making city streets that are geared more toward pedestrian traffic, and not toward cars, could lower housing costs, especially in cities with notoriously high housing prices like San Fransisco.

The basic thinking, according to Yglesias, (who is commenting on an idea tweeted out by narrow street activist Steve Dombek) is that by making streets more narrow, city planners could deter people from driving as much, while also making room for more housing, thus making housing more affordable in the area.

According to the researchers at Harvard, more affordable housing in areas with easy access to better jobs could make all the difference in the mobility of future generations.
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