Sex Changes Everything: The Recent Narrowing and Widening of Travel Differences by Gender

The average U.S. male historically commutes further and longer than his female counterpart. Yet pivotal changes at home, as younger women especially increase their influence on household location and work decisions, and in the labor market, and as women’s participation rates and profiles approach men’s, strongly suggest that gender’s influence on travel might be changing as well. Furthermore, the independent and interactive influence of other demographic factors, not least age and race, remain unclear. This study analyzes national microdata covering the past 20 years to examine both issues. We find sources of both convergence and divergence in travel behaviors by sex. The gender gap in commute length of older workers is growing, even while that of younger workers steadily closes. At the same time, racial differences in mode choice and commute times are becoming less pronounced—both by race and by gender. Thus, gendered elements of travel demand are indeed evolving, if not in predictable directions.