Driving degregation: driving licence uptake and emerging inequalities

Julie Clark, Jon Minton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Driving propensities shape and have shaped a great many social changes, not least the size and structure of our cities. The post-war decades saw a steady drift to the suburbs in the UK. However, since the 1990s, this pattern has been disrupted. When ‘Generation X’ entered adulthood, they were less likely to drive than their parents at the same age - a pattern that accelerated even further with the ‘Millennials’. A benign explanation for these trends points to an Urban Renaissance: lifestyle preferences changing in favour of higher density, mixed use, urban areas. But a more troubling interpretation also needs to be considered: with rising house prices, more expensive car insurance, increasingly precarious employment and less economic stability, have young adults instead simply been priced out of car ownership?
Using records from the BHPS from 1991 to 2009, we looked at how patterns of licence holding varied with age, gender and highest educational qualification (a proxy both for household socioeconomic background and future earning potential), considering how this relationship has changed over time. Lexis surfaces were employed as a way of visualising large amounts of data, in order to identify subtle and complex patterns. We found that the relationships between licence holding, age and gender seem strongly mediated by social class as well as urbanity/rurality of location. We conclude that the overall pattern in driving licence ownership is less likely to be due to the elective factors of changing preference rather than the process of learning to drive and passing a test, becoming increasingly unaffordable for many UK households.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventRoyal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2016 - Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), London, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Aug 20162 Sep 2016


ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2016
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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