It’s become an uncontested truth that young Americans dislike driving, and indeed, Millennials do seem more fond of public transportation than their elders are. But a new Census tool comparing 18-to-34 year olds now and in the past raises questions about just how much things have changed. In many major U.S. metro areas, young people today drive to work as often as they did in 1980, if not more.
Late last week, the Census released “Young Adults: Then and Now,” an interactive map outlining social trends among 18-to-34 year olds at four different moments: 1980, 1990, 2000, and today (more precisely, the 2009-2013 American Community Survey). One of those trends highlights the share of this population that gets to work by car. Using the raw data, we took the 25 most-populated metros today and compared commuting figures of Millennials to those of young people circa 1980.
First, a quick frame of reference for the country as a whole. In 1980, 83.8 percent of young Americans got to work in a car or a carpool. Today, 84.5 percent of Millennials say the same. That’s a very modest rise in the share of young adults driving to work—and it’s a drop from figures in 1990 (85.6 percent) and 2000 (86.7 percent)—but it’s an increase nonetheless.