The two most important societal trends today are the aging baby boom and women's increased independence. This paper compares the travel profiles of women aged 40 to 49 (early baby boomers) with women aged 75 and over and with men aged 75 and over (parents of the baby boom) to estimate the impact of an aging population on vehicle ownership rates and Vehicle Miles Traveled. Although current gender differences are likely to persist as the baby boom ages, middle-aged women today probably will travel more like their fathers than like their mothers when they reach their parents' age. The baby boom has been the demographic engine driving social change in the U.S. for the past fifty years. Within this large cohort, significant numbers of baby boom women earned college degrees, entered the labor force, and began to maintain their own households during the 1980s. Baby boom women also are more likely to have drivers' licenses than women who are elderly. Any of these trends alone has implications for transportation now, but together they raise important questions for the future: What will the transportation profile of baby boom women look like when they reach the oldest ages and when the majority have been employed, and have been drivers, throughout their lives? How will these women maintain the independence to which they have become accustomed? Data from the 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS) suggest that female baby boomers will be more likely to own cars and will make more trips and drive more miles when they reach ages 75 and over than older women do now. Given the current suburban distribution of population and jobs, women's greater mobility portends additional gridlock and pollution in coming years. Yet appropriate policies might avoid this scenario. More than twenty years of federal highway and housing subsidies unwittingly created the suburbs, and we now have twenty years to implement comparable tax incentives to intentionally encourage central city growth before the baby boom reaches retirement age. This report analyzes travel behavior by age and sex with reference to licensing status, education, household headship, income, race, and ethnicity. Access to vehicles is examined in addition to four measures of mobility (person trips, person miles, vehicle trips, and vehicle miles per day). Weighted data from the 1995 NPTS person files are based on all trips (weekday and weekend) of 75 mi (121 km) or less. Capping trips at 75 mi (121 km) includes 98.8% of all cases and eliminates extremes.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • The proceedings, of which this paper is a part, is Number 17 in the Federal Highway Administration's Searching for Solutions: A Policy Discussion Series.
  • Corporate Authors:

    MultiConsultant Associates, Incorporated

    Silver Spring, MD  United States 

    Federal Highway Administration

    Office of Highway Policy Information
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Spain, D
  • Conference:
  • Publication Date: 1999-2


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: p. 13-63

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00794653
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: FHWA-PL-99-003,, HPPI/6-99(5M)EW
  • Files: NTL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jun 8 2000 12:00AM