Changes in level of household car ownership: the role of life events and spatial context

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in



Ben Clark, Kiron Chatterjee and Steve Melia

Publication date


Recent longitudinal studies of household car ownership have examined factors associated with increases and decreases in car ownership level. The contribution of this panel data analysis is to identify the predictors of different types of car ownership level change (zero to one car, one to two cars and vice versa) and demonstrate that these are quite different in nature. The study develops a large scale data set (n = 19,334), drawing on the first two waves (2009–2011) of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). This has enabled the generation of a comprehensive set of life event and spatial context variables. Changes to composition of households (people arriving and leaving) and to driving licence availability are the strongest predictors of car ownership level changes, followed by employment status and income changes. Households were found to be more likely to relinquish cars in association with an income reduction than they were to acquire cars in association with an income gain. This may be attributed to the economic recession of the time. The effect of having children differs according to car ownership state with it increasing the probability of acquiring a car for non-car owners and increasing the probability of relinquishing a car for two car owners. Sensitivity to spatial context is demonstrated by poorer access to public transport predicting higher probability of a non-car owning household acquiring a car and lower probability of a one-car owning household relinquishing a car. While previous panel studies have had to rely on comparatively small samples, the large scale nature of the UKHLS has provided robust and comprehensive evidence of the factors that determine different car ownership level changes.

Volume and page numbers

43, 565-599





Geography, Household Economics, Life Course Analysis and Transport


Open Access; © The Author(s) 2015; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.