Autoblog, my source for all news about cars, ran an article this morning titled “Poor people more likely to die in car accidents”. (Read it here.) This is bad news since the number of deaths on our roads has fallen per mile driven as more and more people drive in more and more cars. (Your daily commute might be the best evidence of the more and more part of this story.)
As an economist my first reaction to the headline was “why?”. After reading the article and thinking about it like an economist it’s actually pretty obvious. To the extent the following things are more likely, more poor people will die in car accidents:
1. Poor people drive older cars that are less safe and less well maintained.
2. Older cars have less safety devices.
3. Poor people live in regions and neighborhoods with fewer emergency services and medical facilities.
It’s not that poor, less educated people drive badly, nor engage in more risky driving behavior, or share the road with worse drivers (we all do that,) it’s primarily that poor people are less likely to have good outcomes once they get in a car accident. Of course, this might not be the biggest problem facing the poor in America.