Residential relocations and changes in vehicle ownership

Abstract

While the relationship between automobile ownership and the built environment is well established, less is known about how household relocations—specifically, moves between urban and suburban geographies—affect the likelihood of owning an automobile. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and a refined neighborhood typology, I examine the relationship between inter-geography moves and transitions into and out of carlessness. Results suggest that among low-income households, urban-to-suburban movers have an increased likelihood of becoming car owners; those moving in the “opposite” direction—from suburban to urban neighborhoods—show a high propensity to transition into carlessness. Patterns among higher-income households, while similar, are more pronounced. In particular, higher-income carless households that make urban-to-suburban moves are far more likely to become car owners than their low-income counterparts. This highlights the ease with which higher-income households adjust their car ownership levels to suit their post-move neighborhoods. Higher-income suburban-to-urban movers are also more likely to transition into carlessness than low-income households. Importantly, however, only households at the bottom end of the “higher income” distribution have an increased propensity to become carless; suburban-to-urban movers with more financial resources maintain vehicle ownership rates similar to households that remain in the suburbs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While I focus on the likelihood of households first making a relocation and then adjusting their vehicle ownership to suit a new residential location, it is, of course, possible for this chronology to function in the reverse order: households may first transition into car ownership or carlessness and then relocate to a new neighborhood. Unfortunately, the data used in this analysis do not allow for a precise determination of the sequencing of these events. This is undoubtedly a limitation of the analysis, and I address this issue in more detail in the “Data and Methodology” section below.

  2. 2.

    Of course, it is also possible that carlessness might wholly prevent low-income households from making an urban-to-suburban move. As studies show, households that lack vehicle access often do not consider suburban neighborhoods as a residential option (Clampet‐Lundquist 2004; Rosenblatt and DeLuca 2012).

  3. 3.

    Because a number of households in the sample moved more than once during the study period (and thus appear in the data multiple times), there may be concerns that a lack of independence among observations could lead to biased results. To control for this, I performed random effects logistic regressions for each of the models included in Table 3. For Models 1–3, Model 5, and Model 7 coefficients and statistical significance levels were very similar to the results in Table 3, particularly with regard to the residential relocation variables. Models 4, 6, and 8 showed zero variance on the random term (household), resulting from a combination of the fact that the majority of households in the samples only made one move during the study period and that most higher-income households did not transition into or out of carlessness. These results suggest that a lack of independence between observations does not produce biased model results. A further examination of this issue—using random effects models with vehicles-per-driver as an outcome variable—also confirms the non-biased nature of the results presented in Table 3.

  4. 4.

    Because of the relatively small number of households in old urban and mixed use neighborhoods, I combine these neighborhood types into a single group.

  5. 5.

    Complete results are available from the author.

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Acknowledgements

A portion of the findings from this paper were presented at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board on January 13, 2020. The author would like to thank the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles for providing funding in support of this research, as well as Evelyn Blumenberg, Brian Taylor, and Martin Wachs for comments and suggestions regarding an earlier version of this article.

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Schouten, A. Residential relocations and changes in vehicle ownership. Transportation (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-021-10167-7

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Keywords

  • Car ownership
  • Residential location
  • Built environment