The numbers don’t lie: Americans drive less and own fewer cars. The trend is led by Millennials, which, according to some theories, are making their decisions about car ownership based on a less materialistic set of priorities than previous generations.
Jeremy Cato, however, reports on several sources of data that suggest the explanation might be much simpler than that. For example, data from the Highway Loss Data Institute “suggests that [the drop in young drivers] has coincided with the economic downturn – which has not only hammered youth employment, but also has had an impact on parents who might otherwise help their kids take the wheel.” The data also suggests that kids are still “keen” to get cars, and they do so as soon as they can afford it.
Another article by James R. Healey, discussing the decline in household car ownership, shares a similar point about the effect of the economy on car ownership: “Other analysts agree there's a slump in vehicle ownership, but are less likely to see as an anti-car shift in social mores or demographics that to see it as the fallout from the Great Recession.” Healey also quotes data from Edmunds.com that indicates Millennials will quickly buy cars once they get jobs and form households.