Households without a car in Germany, between sustainable transport and social exclusion

Giulio Mattioli

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Households without a car are at the intersection of two contradicting concerns: from a sustainable transport perspective, car-free living has to be promoted in order to stop the trend towards ever increasing motorization. This is more likely to happen in the core of urban areas, where transport alternatives are available. However, carless living is often the consequence of poverty and/or the cause of difficulties in accessing services and social exclusion, and is thus problematic from a social equity perspective. Of course, this association between car ownership and social inclusion is most likely to hold in contexts where car dependence is strong, such as suburban or rural areas, where a high level of mobility is required in order to participate “normally” in society. Accordingly, the size and the nature of the group of households without a car is expected to be highly variable according to the spatial characteristics of the local area: in dense urban areas, this group is expected to be large and complex, with an overrepresentation of households for whom car-free living is a matter of lifestyle choice. By contrast, in territorial contexts where the pressure of car dependence is high, households without a car are likely to be concentrated mostly among the poor and the elderly. In that sense, it might be argued that the internal structure of the group of households without a car is an useful indicator for the level of car dependence of a given local area. This conference paper explores this topic by presenting the results of a secondary analysis of data taken from the German national travel survey (MiD 2008). Using the tools of latent class analysis, it puts forward a typology of households without a car, which is described in relation to five dimensions: economic status, reasons for not owning a car, spatial characteristics of the residential area, accessibility to services and opportunities and actual mobility behaviour. The results are manifold: on the one hand, the carless group as a whole shows an extreme overrepresentation of singles, inactive households and the elderly – with active nuclear families virtually absent from the picture. On the other hand, the analysis shows the existence of two main groups of carless households, with quite different characteristics: a “hard core” of old, less mobile people, which represents about the same share of the population in every territorial contexts, and a group of younger, more mobile households, whose size is extremely variable depending on spatial features of the residential area. These findings invite to a critical discussion of the role of spatial planning in promoting car-free living: while the spatial context makes a big difference for certain kinds of households, for others car ownership seems to be an essential tool for daily life, that cannot be renounced
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventSDS 2012 - Sustainable Development Symposium - 2nd Annual European Postgraduate Symposium - Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria
Duration: 15 Feb 201217 Feb 2012


WorkshopSDS 2012 - Sustainable Development Symposium - 2nd Annual European Postgraduate Symposium


  • sustainable transport
  • transport and social exclusion
  • transport disadvantage
  • car ownership
  • segmentation
  • travel behaviour


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