Some evidence suggests that Millennials are driving less than prior generations did at the same life stage. This decline in automobile use has been attributed to many factors such as high unemployment and debt, substitution of online communication for physical mobility, and changing attitudes about car ownership. But is this the full set of relevant factors, and what is the relative importance of each?
Through qualitative interviews and a nationwide survey of 2,225 U.S. adults, this project sought to explore which factors distinguish Millennial transportation choices from those of prior generations. We find that Millennials choose to drive for fewer of their weekly trips than Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers and that this difference in mode choice is correlated with differences in attitudes, even after controlling for socio-economic factors. Compared to older generations, Millennials are more likely to perceive driving as dangerous and as posing opportunity costs. They would prefer modes that have co-benefits to health or the environment.
Although our results do not necessarily indicate that Millennials are driving fewer total miles (in fact some research finds the contrary), our study suggests that they want a different travel experience. This on, one hand, could mean greater interest in autonomous vehicles or on the other, greater demand for good transit systems.
Montgomery, A.W., Wolske, K.S. and Lyon, T.P. (2020), The Millennial ‘Meh’: Correlated Groups as Collective Agents in the Automobile Field. J. Manage. Stud.. doi:10.1111/joms.12606
Wren Montgomery, PhD, Ivey Business School, Western University & Erb Institute, University of Michigan
Tom Lyon, PhD, Erb Institute, University of Michigan
Student Research Assistants:
Sara Goto, University of Michigan
Lauren Highleyman, University of Michigan
Andrew Bray, University of Chicago
Manyi Wang, University of Chicago
Lucas Amormino, University of Windsor
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
July 2020 - Coverage in The Conversation
May 2017 - Tom Lyon previews our interview results at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit.