Comparing immigrant commute travel adaptation across and within racial/ethnic groups

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, planning - surveys, policy - sustainable, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting


Transit, Walking/biking, National household travel survey, Acculturation, Segmented assimilation


This research investigates differences in the adaptation process of immigrant commute distance and commute mode across and within three racial/ethnic groups—white, Hispanic, and Asian—in the United States to explore policies that facilitate immigrant travel in an efficient and sustainable way. A two-step analysis is conducted: the first step uses all US-born as the reference group, and the second step uses US-born of the same race/ethnicity as the reference. The second step overcomes a potential problem in existing research on immigrant travel adaptation: When all US-born are used as the reference group, the statistics mainly reflect the travel behavior of US-born white people, masking intrinsic travel differences among US-born racial/ethnic groups. Based on multi-level regression analysis of the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data, our results support existing findings of initial difference but eventual convergence of immigrant commute behavior with US-born, while highlighting white immigrants' persistence and Hispanic immigrants' low propensity in using non-automobile modes. Comparison results based on the two reference groups suggest that segmented assimilation due to racial/ethnic group membership is limited. Still, nuanced findings denote distinctive spatial mechanisms that affect immigrant and US-born Asians and highlight the short time window after immigrants' arrival in the U.S. during which policies might contribute to a continuation of their sustainable travel patterns.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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