Transportation Cost Burden

Overview of Household Spending on Transportation by Income Quintile 

Transportation cost burden measures the percentage of income that a household spends on transportation. The cost of transportation, the modes available, and the modes used affect the amount households spend on transportation. Data are available from 2004.

2022 Year-in-Review

  • In 2022, transportation accounted for a smaller share of the lowest income quintile's household spending (15%) but a larger share of their after-tax income (30%).
  • The cost burden, as measured by the share of after-tax income spent on transportation, falls as income rises; the highest income quintile spent 12% of their after-tax income on transportation - 18 percentage points less than the lowest income quintile in 2022.
  • Income quintiles have experienced different trends in their after-tax transportation cost burden. The after-tax transportation cost burden of the lowest income quintile rose 3 percentage points from 2021 to 2022 - the largest increase from 2021 to 2022 across income quintiles. The second- through the fourth income quintile spent virtually the same share of their after-tax income on transportation in 2022 as in 2021 (less than one percentage point change), while the highest income quintile spent 1 percentage point more of their after-tax income on transportation in 2022 than in 2021.
  • Across all income quintiles, the highest after-tax transportation cost burden in the past two decades was in 2001.
  • Across all income quintiles, COVID-19 concerns was the reason (excluding "other") selected by a larger share of persons as the reason for traveling less in the past 30 days. However, in the lowest income quintile, being unable to afford available forms of transportation ranked higher than COVID-19 concerns.
See figures below for before-tax statistics.


Spending on Transportation vs. Other Goods and Services | Changes in Spending on Transportation | Types of Transportation Expenditures | Trip Frequency and Affordability

Spending on Transportation vs. Other Goods and Services

The chart on the left represents household spending as a percent of total spend, while the chart on the right shows household spending as a percent of income. Both charts are broken out by income quintile; use the drop down to change the year viewed. 

Changes in Spending on Transportation

The line chart on the left shows the percent of income spent on transportation, otherwise known as the cost burden. The chart on the right changes based on where you hover your mouse on the chart on the left. The bar chart on the right shows the percent change in income and spend on transportation, and the percentage point change transportation cost burden from the previous year. Choose between before- and after-tax income. In 2020 and 2021, after-tax income includes economic stimulus payments. The first economic payment in 2020 — issued starting April 10, 2020 — was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which distributed $1,200 to qualifying adults and an additional $500 to qualifying adults for each child under age 17. The second economic payment in 2020 was part of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act, which authorized additional payments (starting December 29, 2020) of up to $600 to eligible adults and an additional $600 to eligible adults for each child under age 17.  In 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act provided economic payments up to $1,400 for eligible individuals, plus $1,400 for each qualifying dependent, including adult dependents — starting March 17, 2021.  There were no federal stimulus payments issued in 2022 but some states separately issued stimulus payments.
The 2019 increase in the share of after-tax income spent by the lowest income quintile on transportation was from transportation expenditures increasing more than income from 2018 to 2019. A reduction in transportation expenditures and an increase in after-tax income in 2020 brought the share of after-tax income spent by the lowest income quintile on transportation back to roughly the same level as in previous years in 2020.
In 2021, households in the second income quintile experienced an increase in their after-tax transportation cost burden, because they spent more on transportation in 2021 than in 2020 due mainly to an increase in new and used vehicle purchases (see Types of Transportation Expenditures).
In 2022, households in the lowest income quintile experienced a 3 percentage point increase in their after-tax transportation cost burden, while the after-tax transportation cost burden of all other income quintiles changed by 1 percentage point or less. The after-tax transportation cost burden of the lowest income quintile rose in 2022, because the increase in transportation expenditures, mainly from an increase in vehicle operation expenditures (see Types of Transportation Expenditures) exceeded the growth in after-tax income (15% and 3%, respectively).

Types of Transportation Expenditures

The line chart shows transportation expenditures by type, otherwise known as the cost burden. 

Trip Frequency and Affordability

The bar charts show the percent of persons who took fewer trips in 2022 in the past 30 days. The past 30 days are from when the respondent was surveyed. The survey period was from January 2022 to January 2023.

U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at www.bts.gov/product/transportation-economic-trends.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.
Contact us: 
202-366-DATA(3282) | answers@dot.gov