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Household Vehicle Fuel Use: Share of Income at the Census Tract Level

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Transportation energy is a significant household cost. Household vehicle fuel consumption, one part of transportation energy costs, varies geographically, and lower-income households generally face higher energy cost burdens. Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory conducted a study that provides a finer understanding of the geographical variation in household transportation energy burden by connecting vehicles miles traveled, vehicle fuel economy, fuel costs, and income data at the census tract level.

The study found that household transportation energy burden varies between 0.09% and 23.3% by census tract. While this variation is primarily attributable to household income level (lower-income households spend a greater share of their budget on fuel), vehicle fuel efficiency (gallons/mile) is also a significant contributor especially for low-income households.

The baseline data and framework developed in this study can help researchers assess the impacts of additional transportation energy costs (vehicle, maintenance, registration, insurance) or transportation policies on transportation affordability for households at the census tract level. This information can help provide a foundation for equity-oriented transportation projects.

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