Baby boomers change U.S. travel habits over 40 year period

boomer car

The Baby Boom Generation (born between 1946 and 1964) has been the demographic engine fueling much of the growth in travel over the past 40 years — both in the number of travelers and in the amount of travel per person. The historic growth in vehicle travel generated economic, spatial, and cultural changes that are still being felt today, reports an AARP study. (click here to download the study as a PDF.)

By all measures of travel, people in the baby boomer age cohort have traditionally traveled more than their counterparts in other age groups. Baby boomers in each survey year traveled more miles per day than people of other ages.


Baby boomers started driving at a young age, and both young men and women entered the workforce with more education than previous generations. When the baby boomers started building families, they acquired “his” and “hers” cars, spread a housing boom to the suburban fringes, and, with the advent of dual-earner families, exhibited a strong reliance on “outsourced” household support, such as day care and eating out, that required travel.

As a result, during the past four decades, the number of vehicles nearly tripled, travel rates more than doubled, and total vehicle miles of travel grew at more than twice the rate of population growth. Since 1977, travel for household maintenance trips (nonwork) grew fivefold.

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