Millennials are OK with cars


Anecdotes that Millennials fundamentally differ from prior generations are numerous in the popular press. One claim is that Millennials, happy to rely on public transit or ride-hailing, are less likely to own vehicles and travel less in personal vehicles than previous generations. However, in this discussion it is unclear whether these perceived differences are driven by changes in preferences or the impact of forces beyond the control of Millennials, such as the Great Recession. We empirically test whether Millennials’ vehicle ownership and use preferences differ from those of previous generations using data from the US National Household Travel Survey, Census, and American Community Survey. We estimate both regression and nearest-neighbor matching models to control for the confounding effect of demographic and macroeconomic variables. We find little difference in preferences for vehicle ownership between Millennials and prior generations once we control for confounding variables. In contrast to the anecdotes, we find higher usage in terms of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) compared to Baby Boomers. Next we test whether Millennials are altering endogenous life choices that may, themselves, affect vehicles ownership and use. We find that Millennials are more likely to live in urban settings and less likely to marry by age 35, but tend to have larger families, controlling for age. On net, these other choices have a small effect on vehicle ownership, reducing the number of vehicles per household by less than one percent.

That is from new work by Christopher R. Knittel and Elizabeth Murphy.


Here is a headline on how we just fundamentally see things differenlty..

"Dodgeball isn't just problematic, it's an unethical tool of 'oppression': researchers"

Read more here please

got it
girls don't like dodgeball
we knew that already
look heres another thing the meme zombies got wrong

at the top of the 2nd inning score is
sodpoodle pharmacology 1
smith college 0

'We find little difference in preferences for vehicle ownership between Millennials and prior generations once we control for confounding variables.'

Ah, so millennials are minimally less car attached, but that doesn't matter, since proper confounding explains it.

Among my three sons each owns a Dodge Ram pick-up: two 1500's - one diesel, and a diesel 2500.

@DtheB - it's all good. I only drive foreign cars, but I did buy a bit of Ford (F) and it's done OK (bought it low) since I figured the death of the car (truck) has been greatly exaggerated (F makes only trucks, SUVs now). I also bought M (Macy's) which has held up nicely since the death of the mall is greatly exaggerated. I will buy a REIT soon for the same reason. Happy investing to you! I'm (we're) getting richer! Who needs work?

F is for fantastic.

Keep it going.

Sure they do, hun. Isn't it time for your medications?

Thanks! I almost forgot, again.

Our propaganda has been less effective than we imagined. Sad!

I've long felt that there might be a real pro urban anti suburb anti car mentality in my generation, but only among a tiny elite of the sort that NYTimes writers would run into. Small increase in urban living preference accompanied by negligible effect on car ownership seems quite consistent with that.

I have a basic rule. Whenever I see a headline containing the word "millennials", I replace the word with "people", and see if it is still true. 99% of the time, it is. (The funniest ones are things like "Millennials believe that they are required to work too hard and are not paid enough", and things like that.

This extension speaks to me every time I open a NYT article:

I think that many people are obsessed with the stereotyping large groups of people these days. Labels like "millenials", "blacks", "whites", "males", reflect this recent explosion of identity politics of groups defined by age groups, skin color or genitalia. This is a very bad sign: North America is becoming more and more a collectivist culture.

Huh? I get that there is a toxic extreme to identity politics, beyond the completely reasonable "hey, stop oppressing me."

But is anything about that really "collectivist?"

"hey, stop oppressing me." Is there really anyone getting oppressed, at least in the US. Not in the past 40 yrs I'd say.

Those Asians at Harvard?

There are things that make you go Hmm... A less than 3% increase in real median incomes over the past 20 years in the US while in Australia it has doubled? From here it looks like you're being screwed over.

Are you asking if thinking about people in terms of collective identity instead of thinking about people as individuals is collectivist? Now that is a stupid question.

Identity politics (broadly defined as the politics of group identities being oppressed by each other) is essentially synonymous with collectivist politics by the definition of the word. Marxism and Fascism, for example, are two variants of identity politics.

Some people are so imbued with collectivist rather than individualist thought that they can no longer imagine an alternative approach.

Russians, Cubans, and Chinese communists were united by a common identity politics.

They wrote a song about it ..

"Are you asking if thinking about people in terms of collective identity instead of thinking about people as individuals is collectivist?"

But if the alternative to see people as Millenials, whites, males, etc. is to see people as "We are all Americans" or "We are all Humans", this will be even more collectivist, no?

"People" aren't obsessed with stereotyping large groups. Marketers are. And seeing as how almost all economic activity in America appears to be in the service of advertising based on market segmentation, this should really come as no surprise. When people figure out that the segmentation emperor has no clothes, all this identity politics stuff will go away, in favor of whatever mental paradigm drives the next wave of economic activity in this country.

Yeah, that word is usually a good indication that one is reading a bunch of nonsense - though the occasional debunking article can be worth the effort...

Even if the generation currently under 50 would prefer a more walkable urban environment, young families are all but forced into the suburbs when looking for that 3+ bedroom house in a good school district. Big interactions with housing costs and school quality for anyone with a kid or 3 - are these the "confounding variables"? They don't sound so confounding to me.

Agreed. You can't talk about car culture without addressing car infrastructure's dominance in the US. For most, owning a car is a requirement, not a choice.

America neglects public transit and millennials are ok with cars. If they are really millennials, why aren't they using flying cars instead?

American does not neglect public transportation. If anything, it pays for more than it wants.

Cities overlook this truth at their own peril.

There is a meme out there among young technocrats, Yglesias, etc. that the future should be high density and urban transportation, like Asia or Europe. But why? Cities are awful for large middle class families, there is no wonder you either make millions or get out of Manhattan by the time you have children. Not enough trains and busses in NYC, you say? Well, what's the birth rate of Singapore again?

If you care about the environment, why not an American future that is suburban with low- or zero-emission electrical grid and all electric vehicles in every garage? That seems easier than increasing density and building light rail everywhere. And just as green. All you need is an electric vehicle that can travel 100 miles between charges, and you charge it at night in your driveway or garage. We seem to be already underway with residential and commercial EVs, so all is needed is investment in putting electrical outlets outside of every American home. Electric trucks can be recharged at their depots or along the highway with charging stations. All this is much cheaper than building and maintaining a public transportation network in every city and town.

Of course, however, advocating for a green suburban future means "greens" can't bundle their aesthetic preferences in their political platform anymore...

pay wall for doubtful trivia. no thanks.

A millennial! Get him!

Tyler breathes a sigh of relief. Is this mood affiliation or is it Straussian? Anyone have a marginal decoder ring?

Third degree burns. My super-secret BS decoder exploded on my hand in January 2009, while I was listening to Barack Hussein Obama's Inauguration screech.

We were on the edge of becoming a bullshit country. Pulled back at the edge of the cliff. Onward and upward now.

Is this a bot? Or do conservatives still have ODS? Sad either way.

You're a sucker if you don't believe that every thing Obama did and said is bull shit.

Preach! Every single thing he said was a lie. From being born in Hawaii on up. It's a miracle our country survived. And he should consider it one that he hasn't been shot for treason. Might be time for a 21st century lynching.


Nothing unusual about an Obama speech
Any political stemwinder will be redolent with the odor of taurine byproduct .

I wouldn't say it's at all common but I have met a few strangely carless millennials, one a 25 year old genius programmer. She said she didn't have a license because driving scared her.

Only the stupidest of people engage in generational generalizations.

The older generation dies sooner, generally.

I think car enthusiasm has drifted downscale: gearheads were always kind of downscale, but lots of smarter people used to really love cars. E.g., Paul Newman was famous as the thinking man's movie star who was into racing cars.

Judging from the Fast and Furious movies, however, a passion for cars among younger people is more and more restricted to the bottom half of society.

On the other hand, cars remain immensely useful for anybody who doesn't live in Manhattan or Brooklyn. But just as people in Manhattan are unusual in not often having their own washing machines doesn't mean that the rest of country are really into washing machines, cars are slowly evolving into appliances rather than beloved expressions of individuality.

I think part of this is due to regulation that doesn't not allow much innovation and creativity outside of very narrow parameters. Auto transportation would be very cheap and quite varied otherwise.

I saw a BMW that looked identical to a Honda CR-V the other day.

"beloved expressions of individuality": Mr Ford lived in vain, then.

Analysis of intergenerational differences is bunk.

I'm a lefty, but I gotta admit I LOATHE articles like this - since it's just clear attempts to shove the anti-car, anti-house, anti-central air, anti-suburban, ETHOS of my journalist bros up our collective asses. It never fails to amaze me that a. only BROOKLYN is the place the 'fill in the blank' people want to live. that b. 'fill in the blank' doesn't wanna live anywhere but BROOKLYN crammed into a SOVIET condo, and sitting on a COMPOST PILE whilst listening to their bunkmate fart, an c. 'fill in the blank' is ready to CHANGE the American dynamic from eating burger at McDonald's to fisting GROATS into their mouths hand over fist and d. 'fill in the blank' is no longer EVER going to vote for anyone but a MARXIST, e. 'fill in the blank' would rather BIKE in a hailstorm than EVER own a fucking CAR - god, no, CAR OWNERSHIP IS DEAD and ONLY RAIL TRAINS ARE WHAT WE ARE GOING TO RIDE FOREVER UNLESS YOU ARE A FASCIST MONSTER!

+1 That's a pretty good rant. I wish it were on youtube.

Boys' relationship with vehicles has become more like that of girls and girls' relationship with vehicles has become more like that of boys. So far it seems pretty much a wash.

What's the point of posting this without any discussion of what these confounding variables are? Is this a purely academic blog where the average reader is expected to have already paid for access? Or is this actually what passes for content around here?

I guess I am one of those strange millenials who prefers to live in a dense city and not to own a car. I also know that millenials are more suburban than any generation before it. Stands to reason, they grew up in the suburbs and all the building happens in the suburbs.

I reverse commute to the suburbs for work by bike 10 miles, which it takes me an hour. A similar commute by car also takes an hour in rush hour, much less when it is not rush hour. One member of my team goes to the gym way early to avoid traffic and even so, my commute plus gym time takes less (the commuting is my gym time).

Why not keep building along the suburban model. At some point, you run out of the ability to keep building according that model and keep everyone within a reasonable commute to all the jobs. Innovation and dynamism requires large job markets so workers and jobs are better matched. This is the whole argument of Bertaud's Order Without Design.

If you want to build dense jobs markets, you also need people to prefer having fewer cars per household on the margin. Whenever people come to grips with the fact that yes I really do ride my bike to work every day, and no I don't own a car, I get the distinct feeling that people think I am not out on the margin but from outer space.

Also, if you are wondering, I voted for Johnson the last two times around.

"Why not keep building along the suburban model. At some point, you run out of the ability to keep building according that model and keep everyone within a reasonable commute to all the jobs."

This is true of pretty much any pattern of development. If everyone's trying to commute somewhere in the metro area, commute times are going to go up as the area expands. Obviously, public transit gets more effective as density goes up, but it seems like it doesn't work all that well anywhere in the US.

There's only a tiny number of American cities where you can easily get by without a car. I live in Baltimore and I'm an avid cyclist. When my car was stolen and totaled in 2015 I seriously considered not replacing it, but ultimately did so since I could not find an answer to the question of how to get to work in bad weather.

It's the post-Millennials who appear to be moving away from cars, not the Millennials. For example, the share of high school seniors who have driver's licenses dropped from 85% in 1995 to 72% in 2015. Here's a source, plus see my piece on the joys of driving in the American Scholar.

Post millennials are still fairly young. I didn't own a car until I was 24 and in my last year of college.

We find little difference in preferences for vehicle ownership between Millennials and prior generations once we control for confounding variables.

Once we cooked the numbers we got the results we wanted.

A car or more usually a truck perhaps still represents freedom in most of the country, but mainly is a a necessity. As a kid, a relative drove drive himself into town to attend driver's ed.

Where I live, the increase in population has meant traffic is such that driving has become a maddening chore.

And no, we won't be increasing road capacity. We really can't.

Lack of interest in cars is a Gen Z attribute, not a Millennial attribute. The half reached driving age before Uber was founded and the remainder before it was pervasive. They are the Uber drivers. GenZ on the other hand has significantly reduced rates of licensure and uses ride share to go visit friends rather than ask their parents or peers.

Why do people not get licenses? You still need them for ID in a lot of situations.

The replies saying "It is not Millenials who don't like cars, it is the Generation Z" show that perhaps part of the problems is that nobody really knows what exactly "Millenial" is supposed to mean (some people use this name to people born between 1980 and 1995; others from people born after 1980, including present day teenagers).

The transformation of Atlanta in the past 10 years has amazed me. Many parts are still a dump and just looking at Atlanta's government you'd still think they are lording over a housing project wasteland, but I guess that will eventually change as the new entrants run on their sustainability and transit platforms.

The immigrants are in the suburbs now. Interesting independent businesses that aren't chasing hipsters are looking for cheaper rent in the suburbs too.

What happens when cities like Atlanta become nothing but cookie cutter hipster housing and the redundant businesses that cater to them? Will the suburbs be the edgy places that all the trendy post millennials want to be?

Cars are great. They take you so close to were you are going.
Maybe safer motorcycles and or telecommuting can reduce there use.

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