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What drives the gap? Applying the Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition method to examine generational differences in transportation-related attitudes

  • Author(s): Etezady, A
  • Shaw, FA
  • Mokhtarian, PL
  • Circella, G
  • et al.
Abstract

Considerable recent work suggests that Millennials’ behaviors may be converging with those of Generation X as they enter later life stages, but few have investigated whether attitudes, which are often strong predictors of behavior, are undergoing the same convergence. In this study, we analyze the existing generational gap in four transportation-related attitudes (currently pro-urban, long-term pro-urban, pro-car ownership, and pro-environment), and examine the differential effects of other characteristics, including life-stage variables, on these attitudinal gaps. We apply the threefold Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition method to a statewide (weighted) sample of 1029 Millennials and 946 Generation Xers from California to unravel these effects. The method distinguishes among: (1) effects due to the cohorts having different characteristics (endowments); (2) effects due to those characteristics having different influences on attitudes (coefficients); and (3) the interaction of those two effects. We observe that Millennials’ attitudes: (1) differ from those of Generation X only by small, albeit statistically significant, amounts on average; and (2) are closer to those of Generation X as they gain on a host of life-stage variables such as marital status, income, and education. For example, if Millennials were married, employed, and earning higher incomes at the same rates as Generation X (but retaining their own model coefficients), the generational gap in the currently pro-urban attitude would be reduced by 24%. This study brings an econometric approach to the study of generational divides in transportation-related attitudes, with findings suggesting that Millennials might be leaving part of their uniqueness behind as they enter later life stages.

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