What happens when you give poor families a car? For decades, scholars have suggested that giving poor families cars can help them move up the economic ladder, yet these programs have rarely been studied. This research examines the changes in poor families’ lives when they receive a car from the largest vehicle donation program in the country. The project uses interviews with 30 individuals living in Maryland and Virginia who received a subsidized car. Having a car eased their daily travel and allowed them to transition to better-paying jobs, helped them move to neighborhoods with more opportunities, improved their access to healthcare, and enabled them and their children to
participate more fully in school-related activities. Finally, this project situates the subsidized cars within interviewees’ mobility history. Most had owned cars before, and subsidized car ownership programs offer low-income consumers a safe alternative to a risky and expensive market for used cars.