Recent Trends in Young Germans' Travel Behavior from an Economic Perspective

Recent Trends in Young Germans' Travel Behavior from an Economic Perspective


T Streit, M Wirtz, P Vortisch, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, UK


In this paper the changes in both realms, the mobility and the economy of young German households during the last decade, are revealed.


Young German households nowadays face different economic times than their counterparts a decade ago. The share of Germans with tertiary education increases, and so does the age when entering the job market. In addition the probability of being assigned to a lower paid temporary contract has increased. Both processes have weakened the economic situation of young Germans. On the other side the age of parents when having their first child has increased as well and therefore alleviated young couples from these expenses. Besides these micro-economic changes the national economy in Germany has seen different crises in the last decade.

In this paper the changes in both realms, the mobility and the economy of young German households, are revealed. The focus lies on young households with all adults being younger than 35 years. We show how car ownership has been varying for different household income levels, how mobility expenses have changed for households with cars and without cars and how the travel behavior varies for different household income levels. The findings presented here result from the project "Changes in Young People's Mobility Patterns" initiated by the Institute for Mobility Research (ifmo) in Munich. The results have been extended by the economical perspective for this paper.

For the analysis two data sources were used: The Income and Consumption Survey (EVS) of the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) is conducted every five years and provides information on the economic situation of households in Germany. Data was used from the 1998 and 2008 survey. In addition, the German Mobility Panel (MOP) surveys travel behavior of the German population on an annual basis. Our analysis relies on two groups of data: the years 1997-1999 and 2007-2009, comparable to the EVS times.

Car ownership for young households in Germany decreased from 79% to 70% between 1998 and 2008. Interestingly, for young households this trend is independent from household size and is a combination of two divergent processes: on the one hand we can show that for low income classes the number of cars per person decreased, whereas for high income classes this figure increased, even more for the very high income classes. Since the reduction rate is larger and the majority of young households belong to the low income classes the overall trend in car ownership is negative. There is no such divergent trend for the other households with adults above 34 years where car ownership increases independently of the income.

We analyzed if there is also a divergent trend for distance travelled between persons in low and high income households with cars. Analyses show that for both groups the average distance travelled of young Germans decreased by 4% respectively 5%. So even persons in high income households with an increasing number of cars show a reduction in distance traveled. When focusing on the vehicles miles traveled (VMT) only, the reduction is even more severe: 10% for low income households and 18% for high income households. Since both groups have increased their distance traveled by public transit the overall decline in distance traveled is rather small. The increased usage of public transit goes along with an increased numbers of season tickets for young households.

Furthermore we extended our analysis to mobility expenses and consumer spending in general. As expected, due to smaller income levels the inflation adjusted monthly consumer spending decreased for all ages and car ownership models between 1998 and 2008. As one part of the overall consumption we selected the mobility expenses, one of 12 expense groups in the EVS survey. We found that young households with car ownership increased their absolute expenses, whereas young households without a car spend a smaller amount of money for their mobility. Relative expenses increased for car owning households too but households without a car maintained stable relative expenses. In contrast to the raising mobility expenses for car owning households the distance traveled decreased from 430 km per person and week in 1998 to 370 km in 2008 whereas persons in households without cars show rather stable results of 260 km per person and week.

We conclude that young households nowadays show an overall reduction in distance traveled. The increase in using public transit is overcompensated by a larger reduction in VMT. For households without cars the relative mobility expenses and the distance traveled remains the same. For high income households with cars the reduction in VMT so far goes along with an increasing number of cars and increased relative spending for mobility.


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