Longitudinal analysis of adolescent girls’ activity patterns in San Diego and Minneapolis: Understanding the influence of the transition to licensure


  • Noreen McDonald University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Louis A. Merlin University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Haoting Hu University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Joshu Shih University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Deborah Cohen Rand
  • Kelly Evenson University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Thomas McKenzie San Diego State University
  • Daniel Rodriguez University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill




license, teens, driving, activity space


The proportion of teens and young adults with driver’s licenses has declined sharply in many industrialized countries including the United States. Explanations for this decline have ranged from the introduction of graduated driver licensing programs to the increase in online social interaction. We used a longitudinal cohort study of teenage girls in San Diego and Minneapolis to evaluate factors associated with licensure and whether teens’ travel patterns become more independent as they age. We found that licensure depended not only on age but also on race and ethnicity as well as on variables that correlate with household income. Results also showed evidence that teen travel became more independent as teens aged, and that acquiring a license is an important part of this increased independence. However, we found limited evidence that teens’ travel-activity patterns changed as a result of acquiring a driver’s license. Rather, teen independence resulted in less parental chauffeuring but little shift in travel patterns. For the larger debate on declining millennial mobility, our results suggest the need for more nuanced attention to variation across demographic groups and consideration of the equity implications if declines in travel and licensure are concentrated in low-income and minority populations.

Author Biography

Noreen McDonald, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Blumenburg, Evelyn, Brian D. Taylor, Michael Smart, Kelcie Ralph, Madeline Wander, and Stephen Brumbaugh. 2012. What's youth got to do with it? exploring the travel behavior of

teens and young adults. Berkeley, CA: University of California Transportation Center, UCTC-FR-2012-14.

Buliung, Ron N., and Tarmo K. Remmel. 2008. Open source, spatial analysis, and activity-travel behaviour research: Capabilities of the aspace package. Journal of Geographical Systems 10 (2): 191-216.

Buliung, Ron N., Matthew J. Roorda, and Tarmo K. Remmel. 2008. Exploring spatial variety in patterns of activity-travel behaviour: Initial results from the toronto travel-activity panel survey (TTAPS). Transportation 35 (6): 697-722.

Delbosc, Alexa, and Graham Currie. 2013. Causes of youth licensing decline: A synthesis of evidence. Transport Reviews 33 (3): 271-90.

Fan, Yingling, and Asad J. Khattak. 2008. Urban form, individual spatial footprints, and travel: Examination of space-use behavior. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 2082 (1): 98-106.

Hintzen, Niels T., Francois Bastardie, Doug Beare, Gerjan J. Piet, Clara Ulrich, Nicolas Deporte, Josefine Egekvist, and Henrik Degel. 2012. VMStools: Open-source software for the processing, analysis and visualisation of fisheries logbook and VMS data. Fisheries Research 115 : 31-43.

McCormack, Gavin R., Billie Giles-Corti, and Max Bulsara. 2008. The relationship between destination proximity, destination mix and physical activity behaviors. Preventive Medicine, 46 (1) (1): 33-40.

McDonald, Noreen C. 2008. Household interactions and children’s school travel: The effect of parental work patterns on walking and biking to school. Journal of Transport Geography.

McDonald, Noreen C., and AA Aalborg. 2009. Why parents drive children to school: Implications for safe routes to school programs. Journal of the American Planning Association 75 (3): 331-42.

Rodríguez, Daniel A., Gi-Hyoug Cho, Kelly R. Evenson, Terry L. Conway, Deborah Cohen, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Julie L. Pickrel, Sara Veblen-Mortenson, and Leslie A. Lytle. 2012. Out and about: Association of the built environment with physical activity behaviors of adolescent females. Health & Place 18 (1) (1): 55-62.

Saksvig, Brit I., Diane J. Catellier, Karin Pfeiffer, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Terry Conway, Scott Going, Dianne Ward, Patty Strikmiller, and Margarita S. Treuth. 2007. Travel by walking before and after school and physical activity among adolescent girls. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 161 (2): 153.

Schönfelder, Stefan, and Kay W. Axhausen. 2003. Activity spaces: Measures of social exclusion? Transport Policy 10 (4): 273-86.

Sivak, M., and B. Schoettle. 2012. Recent changes in the age composition of drivers in 15 countries. Traffic Injury Prevention 13 (2): 126-32.

———. 2011. Recent changes in the age composition of US drivers: Implications for the extent, safety, and environmental consequences of personal transportation. Traffic Injury Prevention 12 (6): 588-92.

Stevens, June, David M. Murray, Diane J. Catellier, Peter J. Hannan, Leslie A. Lytle, John P. Elder, Deborah R. Young, Denise G. Simons-Morton, and Larry S. Webber. 2005. Design of the trial of activity in adolescent girls (TAAG). Contemporary Clinical Trials 26 (2): 223-33.

Yarlagadda, A. K., and Sivaramakrishnan Srinivasan. 2008. Modeling children's school travel mode and parental escort decisions. Transportation 35 (2): 201-18.




How to Cite

McDonald, N., Merlin, L. A., Hu, H., Shih, J., Cohen, D., Evenson, K., McKenzie, T., & Rodriguez, D. (2015). Longitudinal analysis of adolescent girls’ activity patterns in San Diego and Minneapolis: Understanding the influence of the transition to licensure. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2015.652