SAR has a provocative back-of-the-envelope calculation today:
At $4.00 a gallon, a minimum wage earner driving the average 15,000 miles a year will spend 25% of his/her after-tax income on gasoline.
I’m not sure whether this includes things like the EITC, but the ballpark figure seems right to me. Incidentally, if the driving was purely to and from work, that would mean a commute of 60 miles a day, or 30 miles each way. The number needing work here isn’t the $4/gallon; rather, it’s a combination of the $5.85 minimum wage (which is going up to $6.55 in July and $7.25 a year later) with that 15,000 miles a year.
Incidentally, do you remember Nick Paumgarten’s wonderful story on communting in the New Yorker?
Seven hours is extraordinary, but four hours, increasingly, is not. Roughly one out of every six American workers commutes more than forty-five minutes, each way. People travel between counties the way they used to travel between neighborhoods. The number of commuters who travel ninety minutes or more each way–known to the Census Bureau as “extreme commuters”–has reached 3.5 million, almost double the number in 1990. They’re the fastest-growing category, the vanguard in a land of stagnant wages, low interest rates, and ever-radiating sprawl.
Don’t believe that such commutes are uniquely American, either:
Europeans still drive a lot even with way expensive fuel – the highways are perpetually clogged, worse at times the in the US, around Europe’s major cities.
That isn’t day-trippers, I can assure you.