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EXPLANATORY STATEMENT: How does inflation affect commuting costs?



NEW YORK (UKTN) — Gas prices have fallen from the record highs they reached earlier this summer, but they are still much higher than a year ago. And with inflation pushing up the cost of pretty much everything else, it can get harder and harder to find the money to cover your commute.

“Being able to get a job is so essential to people’s survival that other things have to go first,” said Abbie Langston, director of equitable economics at PolicyLink, a national research institute. “When we see these huge increases in gas prices, it really hurts people.”

Whether you’re driving, taking the bus, or taking the subway, here’s what you need to know about how commuters are affected by the cost of living in the United States.


More than 76% of Americans commute by car. In June, they saw gas prices rise to over $5 a gallon. Although prices have fallen significantly since then, the national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded beverage was $3.99 Thursday, still higher than $3.19 a year ago.

Costanza Bentancor, a paralegal from Mohegan Lake, New York, needs gas to commute to work for 20 minutes and also uses her car to get to clients, families who have recently immigrated to the US

“It’s been really hard. I’ve learned to budget my money a little bit better,” Bentancor said.

Due to the high cost of living in Westchester County, she also struggled to move from her parents’ home to her own.

AAA survey data published in July found that nearly 64 percent of U.S. adults have changed their driving habits or lifestyle since March this year. The top three changes were driving less, combining groceries and shopping or eating out less.

“People choose houses, the type of car they drive, and how much they drive based on the assumption of how much they can afford to drive, and when that changes it becomes really hard to give people alternatives,” says Yonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a non-profit research organization based in Washington, DC

For workers who travel on public transit, rising gas prices may not directly affect their bus or train fare, but the rising cost of living could affect their ability to afford those tickets.


Housing and transportation together account for more than half of the average family’s expenses, according to the Brookings Institution’s Affordability Index. For low-income families, the percentage spent on housing and transportation can be even higher, meaning they’ll be hit hardest by rising prices.

“People are really having a hard time right now. They’re forgoing childcare, they’re not seeking medical care or rationing prescription drugs,” said Langston, pointing out that one in three people in the US is at or near poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many inequalities in society, including who should work from home.

“The majority of the Latino and immigrant workforce does not have the luxury of working from home,” said Yanira Merino, national chair of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, only 16.2% of Latino workers and 19.7% of black workers were able to work from home in 2020, compared to 37% of Asian workers and 29.9% of non-Hispanic white workers. workers.

Low-income families are also more likely to rent their homes, making them more vulnerable to rising house prices, Freemark said.

Vicente Gonzalez, a mail carrier in a Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, has seen members of his community move further away because they can’t afford rent.

“A lot of people move to cheaper areas, but there’s no work there, so they have to drive all day,” Gonzalez says. “As much as people would like to buy an electric car and save gas, they really don’t have a choice.”

The average worker commutes 26.9 minutes, according to the US Census Bureau. However, according to data from the National Equity Atlas, workers of color have longer commutes than white workers, regardless of income level.


Asha Weinstein Agrawal, a professor at San Jose State University, believes that government officials should invest in public transportation, but also encourage the use of fuel-efficient vehicles to bring about long-term change.

“If we really want to reduce people’s transport costs, you can’t do it in a month. But we need to help them get more electric vehicles. That will have much more impact, especially low-income families,” she said.

E-bikes or electric vehicles are also a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation, Freemark said.

Alternatively, both Langston and Freemark believe that raising people’s wages and developing affordable housing would help create an environment where everyone can get through tough times.


The UK Time News receives support from the Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and explanatory reporting to improve financial literacy. UKTN foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. The UKTN is solely responsible for its journalism.



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