Variation in Metropolitan Travel Behavior by Sex and Ethnicity

Researchers have long observed that travel behavior varies systematically by sex and by ethnicity. However, the underlying causes of these differences and their policy implications have been subject to ongoing debate. In particular, there is an extensive literature comparing and contrasting the travel patterns of men and women, though relatively few studies have explicitly examined the combined influence of sex and ethnicity on travel behavior—the focus of this study. This research uses recently published data from the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS) to examine patterns of metropolitan travel by sex and ethnicity along three dimensions: (1) the choice of travel mode, (2) commuting to and from work, and (3) the purpose of travel. The authors use both cross-tabulations of data and multi-variate analyses (using both weighted and unweighted data) to explore ethnic and sex variations in travel behavior for metropolitan trips under 75 miles in length and 180 minutes in duration. In a nutshell, they find that race/ethnicity appears to be a more important influence than sex on mode choice and commuting behavior, although sex differences persist, especially by household type. Their analysis of non-work travel, however, reveals sharp distinctions between men and women across ethnic groups. Despite significant increases in paid labor force participation by women over the last third of the twentieth century, these data suggest that women continue to shoulder far more responsibility than men for maintaining households (and for household-serving travel). As a consequence, the authors find that women, regardless of race/ethnicity, are more likely than men to chain trips together into tours. This has important implications for urban transportation planning and policy. For example, the relative inflexibility of fixed-route transit service is often poorly suited to chaining multiple trips together across a metropolitan area. Public transit systems may need to develop new, more flexible forms to better adapt to the needs of trip-chaining travelers.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Appendices; Bibliography;
  • Pagination: pp 181-244

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01139923
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: NTL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Sep 18 2009 7:08AM