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How men and women differ in their travel patterns

by Michael Sivak.

In this analysis I examined gender differences in travel patterns. The data came from ATUS—the American Time Use Survey. ATUS provides nationally representative estimates of the amount of time people spend doing various activities. It is an annual time-diary study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The analysis used the following two variables from ATUS:

  • Average percentage of persons traveling (using any travel mode) per day by activity.

  • Average hours spent traveling per day by activity for persons who traveled in connection with the activity.

Weekday and weekend activities are combined in each of these two variables. Therefore, the information is an average applicable to every day. The data are for persons 15 years of age and older, and they are applicable for 2018.

The results are shown in the following table.


Below is a summary of the most noteworthy patterns.

Work. Men are more likely than women to travel in connection with work (39.5% vs. 31.1%). Those men who do travel spend more time traveling than do women (0.87 hours vs. 0.73 hours).

Personal care. The likelihood of travel related to personal care for women is similar to that for men (2.8% vs. 2.7%), but women who do travel for this purpose spend more time traveling (0.80 hours vs. 0.56 hours).

Caring for others. Women are more likely to travel for the purpose of caring for and helping household members (16.0% vs. 9.5%), and women who do spend more time traveling (0.66 hours vs. 0.58 hours). Women are also more likely to travel for the purpose of caring for and helping nonhousehold members (9.6% vs. 7.5%), but the amounts of time traveling for those who do are similar (0.62 hours vs. 0.61 hours).

Purchasing goods and services. Women are more likely to travel to purchase goods and services (44.8% vs. 37.9%), but there is no difference in the amount of time traveling for those who do (both 0.66 hours).

Maxima. The activity that is connected with the highest likelihood of travel for men is work (39.5%), while for women it is purchasing goods and services (44.8%). The greatest amount of time spent traveling for men who travel in connection with the activities in this analysis is for work (0.87 hours), while for women it is for personal care (0.80 hours).

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.


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