Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Car Driving in Decline among Young People in Marion County

While the Great Recession is almost certainly part of the causal mix, it's likely too that we are seeing a significant shift in cultural attitudes as the number of young people having drivers licenses is on the decline.

Interestingly, it's the 25-34 year old cohort that shows a decline coincident with the Recession. Younger cohorts show declines starting well before the crash of 2008. (Part of this, also, may be a demographic bump peaking in '99 among 14-17, and that group aging with bumps in 2001 for the 18-21 group, in 2003 for 22-24, and so on - but the overall decline is clear.)

The population does not show equivalent declines, so these data also represent a decline in rate of licenses, not merely a decline in absolute numbers.

No wonder the car companies are moving to market aggressively to young people! Driving is the perhaps the new Smoking.

In any case, this is yet another reason why the City should assertively move to adopt and then implement the Bike and Walk Salem update to the Transportation System Plan. If Salem wants to be a competitive in attracting and retaining young adults in the work force, it would do well to heed this trend and offer a robust suite of mobility choices.

Update, February 2 - here's a chart using the same data, but sorted into two buckets. It really shows the shift.

Data from DMV Driver Statistics and this graph of County level data.

Thanks to Jeff for finding this!

Update, December 11th, 2014


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Jeff also found a piece in The Atlantic:

'At a major conference last year, Toyota USA President Jim Lentz offered up a fairly doleful summary of the industry's challenge.

"We have to face the growing reality that today young people don't seem to be as interested in cars as previous generations," Lentz said. "Many young people care more about buying the latest smart phone or gaming console than getting their driver's license."


GM is hoping that the right car, at the right price, can solve these challenges. According to the WSJ, the company has appointed a 31-year-old marketing executive named John McFarland as its "youth emissary" to try and turn cars back into the sorts of attractive toys that can compete with smart phones and tablets in the Millennial consciousness. During the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, he told the paper: "You hear [Millennials] don't have money. They do and there is potential. You just have to have a product that gives them exactly what they want."


Actively catering to the Millennials has proved tricky in the past, as Toyota learned with its Scion brand. The Scions were inexpensive, edgy-looking, and easily customizable. They promoted them at indie-rock concerts and with artist tie-ins. And their sales fell to 49,000 in 2011, from 173,000 five years earlier. Moreover, many owners were actually cost-conscious baby boomers who liked the cars' youthful halo.'

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And Curt found a NYT piece:

"In 2008, 46.3 percent of potential drivers 19 years old and younger had drivers’ licenses, compared with 64.4 percent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers ages 21 to 30 drove 12 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

Forty-six percent of drivers aged 18 to 24 said they would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to the research firm Gartner.

Cars are still essential to drivers of all ages, and car cultures still endure in swaths of suburban and rural areas. But automobiles have fallen in the public estimation of younger people. In a survey of 3,000 consumers born from 1981 to 2000 — a generation marketers call “millennials”— Scratch asked which of 31 brands they preferred. Not one car brand ranked in the top 10, lagging far behind companies like Google and Nike."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And the Christian Science Monitor.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Sightline has a new report on gas and mileage in the PNW. "Shifting Into Reverse: Northwest gasoline consumption makes a modest decline"

From the report:

"Two concurrent trends have spurred the reductions in gasoline consumption: people are driving less, and vehicles have become more efficient. Of the two, declines in driving — particularly among northwesterners under the age of 35 — have made the greater impact. Looking to the future, however, gains in vehicle efficiency, combined with high and volatile gas prices, demographic shifts, and a range of social and technological trends, all point towards continued declines in gasoline use in the Pacific Northwest."

Anonymous said...

Even The Economist has noticed "peak car"!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The Atlantic Citylab had a piece challenging the "Millennials drive less" claim, and the Oregon Economic Analysis came back at it.

So updated with the tweet and chart.