Baby on Board. How Life Events Impact Mobility
Jaco Berveling, KiM Netherlands Institute of Transport Policy Analysis, Marie-José Olde Kalter, Goudappel Coffeng, Lucas Harms, Netherlands Institute of Transport Policy Analysis
The birth of a child is a ‘life event’. This paper focuses on the effects of this life event on car ownership and car preferences using data from the Mobility Panel Netherlands (MPN).
The birth of a child is a major event. The parents’ lives are disrupted for a considerable period of time. Such an occurrence is known as a ‘life event’, as are 'moving home' and 'changing jobs'. These life events are relevant from a behavioural perspective. A life event breaks behavioural routines and forces people to consciously reconsider choices previously taken. Hence, the birth of a child compels people to consider the question of how they intend to travel in the new situation they find themselves in.
Impact on mobility
Previous research has shown that the birth of a child impacts mobility. A child is associated with more driving, more walking, and increased rates of car ownership. Moreover, other modalities, such as cycling and public transport, are used less frequently.
This research examines multiple life events, including childbirth, using panel data from the Mobility Panel Netherlands (MPN) for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. In addition, we performed a literature review and conducted numerous interviews with people who have experienced one or more life events. The research specifically focused on young adults aged 18 to 40 years old.
More than half of the young adults say they experienced a change in travel behaviour due to the birth of a child. However, in both 2014 and 2015, no significant differences were observed in actual car ownership rates and car preference among young adults were a child has been born and young adults without a child birth. In our research we did not observe the effects found in previous research, for which there are various explanations. One of the explanations is that the purchasing of a car had already occurred before the birth of the child. In other words: parents had possibly anticipated what was coming.
Although we did not observe a link between childbirth and increased car ownership rates and car use in our research findings, this does not mean that this life event cannot serve as a ‘window of opportunity’. Policy interventions can be more effective when centred around the birth of a child. The focus of such interventions should be on timing, motives, and issues associated with the life experiences of young parents, the target group, and the parties that, in addition to the government, can make relevant contributions.
Association for European Transport