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The Changing Face of Taxi and Limousine Drivers

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


Twelve percent of Americans used a taxi or limousine service in the previous month, according to a recent federal government survey. The 12% usage rate for taxis and limos compares with 13% for public transit (i.e., bus, rail and ferry) and 7% for airport, hotel, rental car and other shuttle services. Taxis and limos are thus one of the most widely used modes of publicly available transportation in the United States.

Who are the men and occasionally women who deliver taxi and limousine services? What are their backgrounds, how much do they work, how much do they earn? How has the labor pool of taxi and limo drivers changed in recent decades?

Based on U.S. Census data, this report shows that the number of taxi/limo drivers reached an all-time high in 2000. The number of drivers has expanded in both major metropolitan areas as well as the rest of the country, indicating that taxi and limousine services are gaining greater importance in the transportation system throughout the United States.

As the number of drivers has increased, the composition of the driver work force has changed. While the majority of taxi and limousine drivers are U.S.-born men, women and immigrants have established a significant presence in this occupation. Immigrants are particularly important in major metropolitan areas, where they constitute over 50% of taxi/limo drivers. The number of female drivers has also increased in recent decades. Unlike immigrants, however, women are more prevalent outside major metro areas.

Highlights of the study:

Growth in taxi/limo drivers

  • 230,000 active taxicab and limousine drivers were counted in the 2000 Census, the largest number on record.
  • The number of taxi and limo drivers increased by 18% from 1990 to 2000 and by 51% from 1970 to 2000. The growth in taxi and limo drivers reflects the increasing popularity of urban centers as places to live and the growth in business and leisure travel in recent decades.


  • Taxi driving is one of the most predominantly male occupations in the U.S., with a higher proportion of men than other front-line service occupations such as parking attendants, bus drivers and bartenders.
  • The number of women taxi/limo drivers has increased, however, to 13% of drivers in 2000, up from 11% in 1990 and 3% in 1960.
  • Women's representation varies geographically:
    • 28% of drivers who live outside metropolitan areas were women in 2000.
    • 11% of drivers in the Boston area and 10% in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas were women in 2000.
    • By contrast, 4% of taxi/limo drivers in the Chicago area and 3% of drivers in the New York metropolitan area were women in 2000.

National origin

  • 38% of taxi and limo drivers were immigrants in 2000. This is one of the highest proportions of immigrant workers of any occupation in the U.S. Only tailors and farm laborers had a higher percentage of immigrants among occupations with at least 50,000 workers in the 2000 Census.
  • The number of immigrant drivers is growing; the 38% figure for 2000 is up from 27% in 1990 and 8% in 1970.
  • Immigrant drivers are most often from three regions of the world:
    • 6.8% of drivers are from South Asia, primarily Pakistan (2.9% of all drivers) and India (2.3% of drivers)
    • 6.7% of drivers were born in the West Indies, primarily the Dominican Republic (3.0%), Haiti (2.3%) and Jamaica (0.9%).
    • 6.3% of drivers emigrated from Africa, including 1.5% from Nigeria and 1.2% from Ethiopia.
  • Taxi/limo driving is a significant occupational category for some immigrant groups. While only 0.2% of U.S.-born employed men drive a taxi or limousine, 11% of Ethiopian and 7-8% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani-born employed men in the U.S. were taxi/limo drivers in 2000.
  • Immigrant drivers are most prevalent in major metropolitan areas:
    • 82% of drivers in the New York metro area were foreign born in 2000.
    • 57% to 62% of drivers in the Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago metro areas were foreign born in 2000.
  • The clustering of immigrant groups varies by state and metropolitan area:
    • South Asians comprised 15% or more of drivers in the Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC areas in 2000.
    • West Indians comprised at least 13% of drivers in the Boston and New York areas and in Florida.
    • African immigrants comprised 10% or more of drivers in the Chicago area and in Texas, Virginia and Maryland.
    • Asian immigrants account for 12% of drivers in the San Francisco area.
    • Mexican immigrants comprise 12% or more of drivers in the Los Angeles area and in Texas.

Other characteristics

  • 67% of taxi and limo drivers worked full-time (defined as at least 40 weeks a year and 40 hours per week) as of the 2000 Census.
    • This figure was down from 71% in 1990 and 85% in 1960.
    • Full-time drivers worked an average of 49.1 hours per week in 2000.
    • Incomes of full-time drivers averaged $26,800 in 1999, only a slight increase from 1989 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • 43% of taxi and limo drivers had attended college or were college graduates, in 2000.
  • The average age of drivers is 46 years, up from 41 years in 1980.

New York City drivers

  • 2.5% of New York City taxi/limo drivers were female in 2000, essentially unchanged from 1990 and 1980. (In NYC, taxi/limo drivers include medallion taxi, car service, black car and limousine drivers.)
  • 84% of drivers were immigrants, a sharp increase from 64% in 1990 and 38% in 1980.
  • 23% of New York City taxi/limo drivers were from the West Indies (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and 20% were from South Asia (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh).
Based on NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission licensing records for medallion taxi drivers:

  • Bangladesh has replaced Pakistan is the number one country of origin of medallion cab drivers in New York City. In the last two years, 18% of new taxi drivers 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.
  • 15% of new drivers are from Pakistan, down from 21% in 1991 although still much higher than the 1984 figure of 3%.
  • 9% of drivers were born in the U.S., about the same as in 1991, when 10.5% were U.S.-born, but down from 26% in 1984.

  • Full report (231k PDF file)
  • Press release

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