The Dramatic 30-Year Decline of Young Drivers (In 1 Chart)

More

It used to be that getting a driver's license was considered a crucial milestone on the path to adulthood -- a laminated, card-sized declaration of independence from your parents. But over the past three decades, getting behind the wheel has lost its appeal for a large chunk of American teens and twenty-somethings, as shown in this graph from a report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. 

Drivers_Licenses_Sivak_Michigan.PNG
Since 1983, the percentage of Americans with licenses has fallen for every age group under 50. But the most dramatic downward shifts by far have been among the young. And for the most part, that slumping trend continued between 2008 and 2010. This would seem to suggest that the decline of car sales among Generation Y isn't just the product of a bad economy. Instead, the whole demographic, even the very youngest who would probably be driving their parents' ride anyway, may be shifting its transportation habits. 

What's the cause? Sivak and Schoettle say we can thank the Internet. A previous study of theirs found that the fraction of young drivers with licenses was inversely proportional to web access. Of course, no single cause can explain a complicated cultural trend such as how we get around. But its reasonable to suspect that young people's love of the Internet is playing a role. 

After all, who needs to drive over to a friend's house when you have GChat?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In