Understanding mobility inequality through the lens of economic welfare: The difference in willingness-to-pay and actual fare matters


Dapeng Zhang

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - pricing, economics - willingness to pay, mode - bus, place - asia, place - urban, policy - equity, policy - fares, ridership - old people


Economic welfare, Mobility inequality, Sense of gain, Public transportation, Beijing


Existing studies investigate mobility inequality from the perspectives of accessibility and non-economic welfare. This paper proposes to analyze mobility inequality through the lens of economic welfare, which reflects the difference of passengers' willingness-to-pay and the actual fare. Based on the theory of welfare economics, this paper first defines the concept and specifies the formula of economic welfare with regards to mobility inequality. Then, economic welfare is calculated regarding the elderly's bus fare in Beijing and econometric models are estimated to examine how mobility inequality is socially and spatially distributed. Results show that those with low income and living in the low-unit-house-price communities in the city center are the marginalized group. The benefits of introducing economic welfare to mobility inequality studies include (1) it can improve the objectivity in assessing travelers' feelings and identifying marginalized groups; (2) the concept of economic welfare can directly correspond to the “sense of gain” policy initiative in China; (3) the perspective of economic welfare can inform transportation pricing policies to mitigate inequality issues. To conclude, this paper contributes to the existing literature by a new perspective of economic welfare that enriches the current dialogue of mobility inequality among the geographical, transportation, sociological and psychological researchers.


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