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The Changing Face of Taxi and Limousine Drivers

U.S., Large States and Metro Areas and New York City

Press Release:

July 6, 2004--Schaller Consulting released a 38-page report today, "The Changing Face of Taxi and Limousine Drivers in the U.S., Large States and Metro Areas and New York City." The report, based on recently released U.S. Census data files, shows that in 2000 the number of taxi and limousine drivers in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 230,000 drivers. With a recent federal survey showing that 12 percent of Americans used a taxi or limo service in the previous month, the Census data show that taxis and limos are a significant and increasingly important transportation service in the U.S.

As the number of drivers has increased, the composition of the driver work force has changed. In 2000, 38 percent of taxi/limo drivers were immigrants, an increase from 27 percent in 1990 and 8 percent in 1970. Taxi/limo driving now has the third-highest percentage of immigrants, behind only tailors and farm laborers, among occupations with at least 50,000 workers in the U.S.

Immigrant taxi and limo drivers are primarily from South Asia (6.8 percent of all drivers), the West Indies (6.7 percent) and Africa (6.3 percent). Leading countries of origin are the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Mexico, former USSR, Haiti, India, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

The report also shows that taxi/limo driving is one of the most predominantly male occupations in the U.S. The percentage of female drivers increased to 13 percent in 2000, however, up from 11 percent in 1990 and 3 percent in 1960.

Other highlights in the report are:

  • The Las Vegas metro area experienced an 137 percent increase in taxi/limo drivers from 1990 to 2000, by far the largest increase among major metro areas. The Boston area saw an increase of 33 percent and the New York City area a 22 percent increase.
  • The New York City and Chicago metro areas have the lowest percentage of female drivers (3 percent and 4 percent respectively), while the Boston (11 percent) and Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas (both 10 percent) have the highest proportion of female drivers among major metro areas.
  • The highest proportions of immigrant drivers are found in the New York City area (82 percent of drivers are immigrants), followed by the Washington DC (62 percent), Los Angeles and Chicago (both 59 percent) and San Francisco (57 percent) metro areas.
  • Within New York City's medallion taxi industry, Bangladesh has replaced Pakistan is the number one country of origin for first-time cab drivers. Of medallion taxi drivers entering the business in the last two years, 18% were born in Bangladesh, up from 10% in 1991 and 1% in 1984. This increase reflects rapid increases in Bangladeshi immigration to New York City. Fifteen percent of new taxi drivers are from Pakistan and 9 percent are from India.
Taxi/limo driving is a remarkably large occupational category for some immigrant and gender groups. Eleven percent of immigrant Ethiopian men were taxi/limo drivers in 2000, as were 8 percent of Bangladeshi and 7 percent of Pakistani-born employed men in the U.S. By contrast, only 0.2% of U.S.-born employed men drive a taxi or limousine.

The study also found that taxi/limo drivers are often better educated than one might expect, with 14 percent of drivers having college degrees. The highest proportions of college graduates driving taxis and limos are in Maryland (23 percent of drivers have a college degree) and Illinois (22 percent), while the lowest percentages are in Pennsylvania (9 percent) and Massachusetts (10 percent).

Bruce Schaller, author of the report and a nationally recognized expert in the taxicab business, said, "The growth in the number of taxi and limo drivers is spurred by the revitalization of urban centers and increases in business and leisure travel across the U.S."

Commenting on the increase in immigrant drivers, Schaller said, "Driving a taxi or limousine offers immigrants the opportunity to begin climbing the ladder in pursuit of the American dream. The job requires hard work and the earnings are modest, but taxi and limo driving offers independence and the opportunity to make hard work and hustle pay off."

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