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Younger persons are still less likely to have a driver’s license than in the 1980s

by Michael Sivak, Sivak Applied Research.

Since 2011, I have periodically examined changes in the proportion of persons with a driver’s license as a function of age. The previous study compared data for 1983 (as the baseline) with those for 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017. The results showed that between 1983 and 2014 there was a substantial decrease in the licensing of younger persons, with an increase in the licensing of older persons. That was followed by modest increases in the licensure for all age groups between 2014 and 2017.

The present study compares data for 2018 (released in late December 2019) with data for 1983 and 2014. The information for the analysis came from the Federal Highway Administration. The results are shown in the table below.


The main findings are as follows:

  • In 2018, the percentage of persons with a driver’s license for each age group from 16 to 44 was smaller than the corresponding value in 1983. The decrease (in percentage of percentages; see column 5) was greatest for the 16-year-olds—a decrease of 44.6%—and it gradually decreased with increasing age to zero for those 45 to 49.

  • In 2018, the percentage of persons with a driver’s license for each age group older than 49 was greater than the corresponding value in 1983. The increase was greatest for those 70 and older—an increase of 50.9%—and it gradually decreased with decreasing age to 1.8% for those 50 to 54.

  • From 2014 to 2018, there were modest increases in the licensure for all age groups, ranging from 0.7% (for those 25 to 29) to 5.1% (for those 70 and older).

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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