Yes, Urban Millennials Do Drive Less

Proof from the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey on commuting by auto shows that millennials, if they live in cities, do indeed drive less. Census researcher Brian McKenzie describes the finding in the bureau's blog, Random Samplings.

August 18, 2015, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Young Driver

An en Alain / flickr

The August 13 survey, "Who Drives to Work? Commuting by Automobile in the United States: 2013," and referenced here, has 28 pages (PDF) of data to pore over. However, a quick read can be found in Brian McKenzie's blog.

"Some of the most notable recent changes in commuting have occurred among younger workers, particularly those living in cities," writes McKenzie, also the author of the Census Bureau report. 

  • In 2013, about 74 percent of workers ages 16 to 24 living in principal cities commuted by automobile, compared with about 80 percent of the oldest workers.
  • Workers between the ages of 25 and 29 living in principal cities showed the largest auto commuting declines since 2006, at about 4 percentage points. [See interpretation by Emily Badger below]. This is also the group that was least likely to have a vehicle at home in 2013. 

By one definition, "the Millennial cohort consist(s) of individuals born between 1982 and 2004. Google defines a millennial as "a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000; a Generation Yer."

For more data, go to the survey, page 6: DIFFERENCES IN AUTOMOBILE COMMUTING BY AGE (PDF) 

Rapidly evolving transportation options and changing demographics across communities raise several questions about current and future travel patterns. Young people show some deviation from several long-standing travel-related indicators, including higher rates of commuting by travel modes other than private vehicles... To what extent these deviations may become a sustained pattern remains unclear. 

McKenzie's work is meticulously footnoted, including references to a U.S. PIRG report posted here.

Writing in The Washington Post Wonkblog, Emily Badger emphasizes that the decline in auto commuting among millennials applies to those "who live in the principle city of each metropolitan area — so, not the suburbs."

A four-point decline [see second bullet above] may not sound like much (it means about 76.7 percent of these young urban workers still commute by car). But since 2006, the rate of their decline in driving is about four times greater than the national average. And, as the [below] chart shows, changes in commuting patterns happen gradually over many years.


Census Bureau: Figure 3, Random Samplings

Thursday, August 13, 2015 in Random Samplings

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