Life events, poverty, and car ownership in the United States: A mobility biography approach
AbstractWhat causes families to buy or give up a car in the U.S.? Following the mobility biography approach, we use a nationally representative panel data set, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), to examine the role of life events and changes in the built environment and compare the effect that these events have on changes in car ownership. We find that coupling, graduating from college, and the birth or adoption of a child all are associated with increases in car ownership, while breaking up is associated with decreases in car ownership. Moving to or away from transit-rich, dense, walkable neighborhoods matters but only when one moves to a very different type of neighborhood. We also find that life events have a stronger association with gaining a car for non-poor families than for families in poverty. Life events are windows of opportunity when families reevaluate their travel patterns. Interventions at these critical junctures could be an expedient way to decrease car ownership and its attendant problems, especially when combined with improving alternatives to the automobile.
Axhausen, K. W. (2002). A dynamic understanding of travel demand: A sketch. Arbeitsberichte Verkehrs- Und Raumplanung, 119, 1–20. doi.org/10.1108/9781786359520-001
Behrens, R., & Mistro, R. D. (2010). Shocking habits: Methodological issues in analyzing changing personal travel behavior over time. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 4(5), 253–271. doi.org/10.1080/15568310903145170
Beige, S., & Axhausen, K. W. (2012). Interdependencies between turning points in life and long-term mobility decisions. Transportation, 39(4), 857–872. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-012-9404-y
Bento, A. M., Cropper, M. L., Mobarak, A. M., & Vinha, K. (2005). The effects of urban spatial structure on travel demand in the United States. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 87(3), 466–478. doi.org/10.1162/0034653054638292
Boarnet, M. G. (2017). Land use, travel behavior, and disaggregate travel data. In G. Giuliano & S. Hanson (Eds.), The geography of urban transportation (4th edition, pp. 139–163). New York: The Guilford Press.
Brown, A. E. (2017). Car-less or car-free? Socioeconomic and mobility differences among zero-car households. Transport Policy, 60, 152–159. doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2017.09.016
Buehler, R., Pucher, J., Gerike, R., & Götschi, T. (2017). Reducing car dependence in the heart of Europe: Lessons from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Transport Reviews, 37(1), 4–28. doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2016.1177799
Busch-Geertsema, A., & Lanzendorf, M. (2017). From university to work life – Jumping behind the wheel? Explaining mode change of students making the transition to professional life. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 106(Supplement C), 181–196. doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2017.09.016
Cao, X., Mokhtarian, P. L., & Handy, S. L. (2007). Do changes in neighborhood characteristics lead to changes in travel behavior? A structural equations modeling approach. Transportation, 34(5), 535–556. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-007-9132-x
Cao, X., Mokhtarian, P. L., & Handy, S. L. (2009). Examining the impacts of residential self‐selection on travel behavior: A focus on empirical findings. Transport Reviews, 29(3), 359–395. doi.org/10.1080/01441640802539195
Chatterjee, K., & Scheiner, J. (2015, July 19). Understanding changing travel behavior over the life course: Contributions from biographical research. Presented at the 14th International Conference on Travel Behaviour Research, Windsor, UK. Retrieved from http://www.iatbr2015.org.uk/index.php/iatbr/iatbr2015/paper/view/555
Clark, B., Chatterjee, K., & Melia, S. (2015). Changes in level of household car ownership: The role of life events and spatial context. Transportation, 43(4), 565–599. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-015-9589-y
Clark, B., Lyons, G., & Chatterjee, K. (2016). Understanding the process that gives rise to household car ownership level changes. Journal of Transport Geography, 55, 110–120. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2016.07.009
Cullen, I. (1978). The treatment of time in the explanation of spatial behavior. In T. Carlstein, D. Parkes, & N. J. Thrift (Eds.), Human activity and time geography. London: E. Arnold. Retrieved from http://newcatalog.library.cornell.edu/catalog/251697
Dargay, J. M. (2001). The effect of income on car ownership: Evidence of asymmetry. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 35(9), 807–821. doi.org/10.1016/S0965-8564(00)00018-5
Dargay, J. M., & Hanly, M. (2007). Volatility of car ownership, commuting mode and time in the UK. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 41(10), 934–948. doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2007.05.003
Delbosc, A., & Nakanishi, H. (2017). A life course perspective on the travel of Australian millennials. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 104(Supplement C), 319–336. doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2017.03.014
Edwards, J. D., Lunsman, M., Perkins, M., Rebok, G. W., & Roth, D. L. (2009). Driving cessation and health trajectories in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 64A(12), 1290–1295. doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp114
Elder, G. H., & Giele, J. Z. (Eds.). (2009). The craft of life course research. New York: Guilford Press. Retrieved from http://newcatalog.library.cornell.edu/catalog/6715418
Ewing, R., & Cervero, R. (2010). Travel and the built environment. Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(3), 265–294. doi.org/10.1080/01944361003766766
Fujii, S., & Kitamura, R. (2003). What does a one-month free bus ticket do to habitual drivers? An experimental analysis of habit and attitude change. Transportation, 30(1), 81–95. doi.org/10.1023/A:1021234607980
Gärling, T., & Axhausen, K. W. (2003). Introduction: Habitual travel choice. Transportation, 30(1), 1–11. doi.org/10.1023/A:1021230223001
Giuliano, G., & Golob, T. F. (1990). Using longitudinal methods for analysis of a short-term transportation demonstration project. Transportation, 17(1), 1–28. doi.org/10.1007/BF02125501
Handy, S. (2018). Enough with the “D’s” already — Let’s get back to “A.” Transfers Magazine, (1), 24–26.
Handy, S., Cao, X., & Mokhtarian, P. (2005). Correlation or causality between the built environment and travel behavior? Evidence from Northern California. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 10(6), 427–444. doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2005.05.002
Janke, J., & Handy, S. (2019). How life course events trigger changes in bicycling attitudes and behavior: Insights into causality. Travel Behavior and Society, 16, 31–41. doi.org/10.1016/j.tbs.2019.03.004
Johnson, D. S., McGonagle, K. A., Freedman, V. A., & Sastry, N. (2018). Fifty years of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics: Past, present, and future. The Annal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 680(1), 9–28. doi.org/10.1177/0002716218809363
Jones, H., Chatterjee, K., & Gray, S. (2014). A biographical approach to studying individual change and continuity in walking and cycling over the life course. Journal of Transport & Health, 1(3), 182–189. doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2014.07.004
King, D. A., Smart, M. J., & Manville, M. (2019). The poverty of the carless: Toward universal auto access. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 0739456X18823252. doi.org/10.1177/0739456X18823252
Kitamura, R. (2009). Life-style and travel demand. Transportation, 36(6), 679–710. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-009-9244-6
Klein, N. J., & Smart, M. J. (2017). Car today, gone tomorrow: The ephemeral car in low-income, immigrant and minority families. Transportation, 44(3), 495–510. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-015-9664-4
Klinger, T., & Lanzendorf, M. (2016). Moving between mobility cultures: What affects the travel behavior of new residents? Transportation, 43(2), 243–271. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-014-9574-x
Krizek, K., & Waddell, P. (2002). Analysis of lifestyle choices: Neighborhood type, travel patterns, and activity participation. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1807, 119–128.
Lanzendorf, M. (2003). Mobility biographies. A new perspective for understanding travel behavior. Paper presented at the 10th International Conference on Travel Behavior Research (IATBR), Lucerne, Switzerland, August, 2003.
Lanzendorf, M. (2010). Key events and their effect on mobility biographies: The case of childbirth. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 4(5), 272–292. doi.org/10.1080/15568310903145188
Manaugh, K., & El-Geneidy, A. (2011). Validating walkability indices: How do different households respond to the walkability of their neighborhood? Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 16(4), 309–315. doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2011.01.009
McGonagle, K. A., Schoeni, R. F., Sastry, N., & Freedman, V. A. (2012). The Panel Study of Income Dynamics: Overview, recent innovations, and potential for life course research. Longit Life Course Study, 3(2), 268–284.
Miles, A., Moore, N., & Muir, S. (2014). Mobility biographies: Studying transport and travel behavior through life histories. In F. Hülsmann, K. Roller, & R. Gerike (Eds.), Strategies for sustainable mobilities: Opportunities and challenges (pp. 173–188). Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Müggenburg, H., Busch-Geertsema, A., & Lanzendorf, M. (2015). Mobility biographies: A review of achievements and challenges of the mobility biographies approach and a framework for further research. Journal of Transport Geography, 46, 151–163. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2015.06.004
Oakil, A. T., Ettema, D., Arentze, T., & Timmermans, H. (2014). Changing household car ownership level and life cycle events: An action in anticipation or an action on occurrence. Transportation, 41(4), 889–904. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-013-9507-0
Oakil, A. T., Manting, D., & Nijland, H. (2018). The role of individual characteristics in car ownership shortly after relationship dissolution. Transportation, 1–12. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-018-9857-8
Owen, A., Levinson, D. M., & Murphy, B. (2017). Access across America: Transit 2015 data [data set]. Retrieved from http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/183801
Panel Study of Income Dynamics, restricted use data. (2015). Produced and distributed by the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.
Prillwitz, J., Harms, S., & Lanzendorf, M. (2006). Impact of life-course events on car ownership. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1985, 71–77.
Ralph, K. M., & Brown, A. E. (2017). The role of habit and residential location in travel behavior change programs, a field experiment. Transportation. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-017-9842-7
Rau, H., & Manton, R. (2016). Life events and mobility milestones: Advances in mobility biography theory and research. Journal of Transport Geography, 52(Supplement C), 51–60. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2016.02.010
Rau, H., & Sattlegger, L. (2017). Shared journeys, linked lives: A relational-biographical approach to mobility practices. Mobilities. doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2017.1300453
Rosenbloom, S. (2001). Driving cessation among older people: When does it happen and what impact does it have? Transportation Research Record, 1779(1), 93–99. doi.org/10.3141/1779-13
Salomon, I. (1983). Life-style —A broader perspective on travel behavior. In S. Carpenter & P. Jones (Eds.), Recent advances in travel demand analysis (pp. 290–310). Aldershot, Hants, England: Gower.
Salomon, I., & Ben-Akiva, M. (1983). The use of the life-style concept in travel demand models. Environment and Planning A, 15(5), 623–638. doi.org/10.1068/a150623
Sastry, N., Fomby, P., & McGonagle, K. (2018). Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to conduct life course health development analysis. In N. Halfon, C. B. Forrest, R. M. Lerner, & E. M. Faustman (Eds.), Handbook of life course health development (pp. 579–599). doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47143-3_24
Sattlegger, L., & Rau, H. (2016). Carlessness in a car‐centric world: A reconstructive approach to qualitative mobility biographies research. Journal of Transport Geography, 53(Supplement C), 22–31. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2016.04.003
Scheiner, J. (2014a). Gendered key events in the life course: Effects on changes in travel mode choice over time. Journal of Transport Geography, 37(Supplement C), 47–60. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2014.04.007
Scheiner, J. (2014b). Residential self-selection in travel behavior: Towards an integration into mobility biographies. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 7(3), 15–28. doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.v7i3.439
Scheiner, J. (2017). Mobility biographies and mobility socialization—New approaches to an old research field. In J. Zhang (Ed.), Life-oriented behavioral research for urban policy (pp. 385–401). Berlin: Springer. doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-56472-0_13
Scheiner, J. (2018). Why is there change in travel behavior? In search of a theoretical framework for mobility biographies. Erdkunde, 72(1), 41–62. doi.org/10.3112/erdkunde.2018.01.03
Scheiner, J., & Holz-Rau, C. (2013a). A comprehensive study of life course, cohort, and period effects on changes in travel mode use. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 47, 167–181. doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2012.10.019
Scheiner, J., & Holz-Rau, C. (2013b). Changes in travel mode use after residential relocation: A contribution to mobility biographies. Transportation, 40(2), 431–458. doi.org/10.1007/s11116-012-9417-6
Schwanen, T., & Mokhtarian, P. L. (2005). What affects commute mode choice: Neighborhood physical structure or preferences toward neighborhoods? Journal of Transport Geography, 13(1), 83–99. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2004.11.001
Smart, M. J. (2018). Walkability, transit, and body mass index: A panel approach. Journal of Transport & Health, 8, 193–201. doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2017.12.012
Thigpen, C. (2018). Do bicycling experiences and exposure influence bicycling skills and Attitudes? Evidence from a bicycle-friendly university. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2018.05.017
Thomas, A. (2016). A more sustainable minivan? An exploratory study of electric bicycle use by San Francisco Bay Area families. Presented at the Transportation Research Board 95th Annual MeetingTransportation Research Board, Washington DC. Retrieved from https://trid.trb.org/view/1392478
US Census Bureau. (2018, August 16). How the Census Bureau measures poverty. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html
U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). US 2010 decennial census, tables “SE:T1. Total population” and “SE:T2. Population density (per sq. mile)." Retrieved from https://www.socialexplorer.com/tables/ACS2013_5yr/R10983893
van der Waerden, P., Timmermans, H., & Borgers, A. (2003). The influence of key events and critical incidents on transport mode choice switching behavior: A descriptive analysis. Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Travel Behavior Research, 2003. Retrieved from http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/10024449703/
Verplanken, B., Aarts, H., & van Knippenberg, A. (1997). Habit, information acquisition, and the process of making travel mode choices. European Journal of Social Psychology, 27(5), 539–560.
Verplanken, B., & Roy, D. (2016). Empowering interventions to promote sustainable lifestyles: Testing the habit discontinuity hypothesis in a field experiment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45(Supplement C), 127–134. doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.11.008
Voulgaris, C. T., Taylor, B. D., Blumenberg, E., Brown, A., & Ralph, K. (2016). Synergistic neighborhood relationships with travel behavior: An analysis of travel in 30,000 US neighborhoods. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 10(1) 437–461. doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2016.840
Waddell, P. (2000). Towards a behavioral integration of land use and transportation modelling. Paper presented at the 9th International Association for Travel Behavior Research Conference, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Retrieved from https://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=788682
Walk Score. (2016). Walk Score website. Retrieved from https://www.walkscore.com/
Walker, J. L., & Li, J. (2007). Latent lifestyle preferences and household location decisions. Journal of Geographical Systems, 9(1), 77–101. doi.org/10.1007/s10109-006-0030-0
Zhao, P., & Zhang, Y. (2018). Travel behavior and life course: Examining changes in car use after residential relocation in Beijing. Journal of Transport Geography, 73, 41–53. doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2018.10.003
Copyright (c) 2019 Nicholas J. Klein & Michael J. Smart
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with JTLU agree to the following terms: 1) Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License 4.0 that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. 2) Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. 3) Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.