February 21, 2013

Young Adults After the Recession: Fewer Homes, Fewer Cars, Less Debt

Chapter 5: Decline in Young Adult Vehicle Ownership

SDT-2013-02-Financial-Milestones-05-01Information on vehicle purchases by age is not readily available. Hence it is not clear that young adults are increasingly postponing or forgoing automobile purchases. A vehicle is one of the most widely held nonfinancial assets of American households. Data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 88% of consumer units own or lease at least one vehicle. Among most age groups, the level of ownership in 2011 was similar to 2001. However, among households headed by those younger than 25, a decline is evident. In 2011, 66% of households headed by those younger than 25 owned or leased at least one vehicle, down from 72% in 2001.

The decline in vehicle ownership may be a reflection of declining preferences to drive among the young adult population. Federal Highway Administration figures indicate that the number of licensed drivers between the ages of 18 to 34 increased from 58.2 million in 2001 to 60.3 million in 2011. So the share of young adults with a license fell from 86% in 2001 to 83% in 2011. By comparison, the share of adults 35 and older with a license rose from 89% to 90% over the same period.