Using Social Network Analysis To Optimize Access To Culturally Responsive And Affordable Transportation For Older (Im)Migrants

Rebecca Mauldin, University of Texas, Arlington



Nearly 4.6 million immigrants age 65 years and older live in the United States. This population is expected to more than triple in size by 2050.  A lack of culturally appropriate transportation solutions for older immigrants and migrants (i.e., (im)migrants) creates disparities in access to services for older (im)migrant populations, increasing their risk of social isolation and reduced physical and mental health. Transportation disparities also have negative ripple effects to other sectors including businesses and social service organizations. A growing number of older (im)migrants live in low-density urban environments, which are characterized by high automobile dependency and limited public transportation. In these environments, older (im)migrants are likely to depend on others to provide private transportation. In fact, it is common for older adults to rely on people within their social networks to meet their transportation needs. Negative aspects of this reliance on others are that the private transportation providers may be at risk for caregiver burden and stress, and older (im)migrants’ may be vulnerable to transportation disadvantage if their informal caregivers are unable to provide transportation to social or health opportunities. Senior centers are promising social environments in which to enhance older (im)migrant’s mobility options through their social networks.  

This proposed research uses social network analysis to examine older (im)migrants’ access to transportation knowledge and resources and how it relates to their existing social networks in senior centers. It has the following aims: (1) to identify the prevalence of affordable transportation and transportation knowledge and skills among older (im)migrants and their transportation providers, (2) to assess the caregiver burden associated with providing private transportation to older (im)migrants, and (3) to create a prototype intervention model for leveraging or modifying older (im)migrants social networks to increase access to transportation resources, knowledge, and skills. Its long-term goal is to enhance mobility options and increase access to social and health opportunities for older (im)migrants. Results will increase the knowledge of older (im)migrant’s access to transportation resources and their caregiver’s transportation-related burden.  They will also inform the development of a social network intervention model to increase access to transportation resources for diverse older (im)migrants. 


The research is expected to impact practice and policy for three main groups: practitioners, policy makers, and researchers. 

1. Practitioners:  Community-based organizations recognize transportation to their activities is critical for their programs to survive.  The results of this study can provide practitioners with increased knowledge of the barriers for older (im)migrants who access their programs.  The prototype network intervention model can provide preliminary evidence for ways in which practitioners can leverage or modify the social networks of their program members to increase their mobility.  This can increase participation in programs and directly benefit program participants through increased access to opportunities.  

2. Policy Makers: Results can provide policy makers with information that can assist in evaluations and cost effectiveness analyses of existing or proposed transportation systems.  For example, findings will include information about levels of knowledge and skills for accessing existing transportation systems, barriers to utilization, and hidden costs (e.g., lost productivity) associated with caregivers such as adult children providing transportation to older adults. The intervention developed during this study may provide a low-cost alternative for jurisdictions to use to serve vulnerable older adult populations without relying on inefficient para transit services.

3. Academic and Research Community: Social network interventions to improve the health and well-being of individuals are gaining increased attention in the academic/research community.  This research can inform other researchers interested in social network interventions to support a broad spectrum of information and resource needs.  In addition, the findings will add to the knowledge of access to affordable transportation and health and well-being of older (im)migrants.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
October 31,2020
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC 16 Round 3
UTC Funding: