Gender Gaps in Mode Usage, Vehicle Ownership, and Spatial Mobility When Entering Parenthood: A Life Course Perspective

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Journal Article

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Entry into parenthood is a major disruptive event to travel behavior, and gender gaps in mobility choices are often widened during parenthood. The exact timing of gender gap formation and their long-term effects on different subpopulations are less studied in the literature. Leveraging a longitudinal dataset from the 2018 WholeTraveler Study, this paper examines the effects of parenthood on a diverse set of short- to long-term outcomes related to the three hierarchical domains of mobility biography: mode choice, vehicle ownership, spatial mobility, and career decisions. The progress of the effects is evaluated over a sequential set of parenting stages and differentiated across three subpopulations. We find that individuals classified as “Have-it-alls”, who start their careers, partner up, and have children concurrently and early, significantly increase their car uses two years prior to childbirth (“nesting period”), and they then relocate to less transit-accessible areas and consequently reduce their reliance on public transportation while they have children in the household. In contrast, individuals categorized as “Couples”, who start careers and partnerships early but delay parenthood, and “Singles”, who postpone partnership and parenthood, have less pronounced changes in travel behavior throughout the parenting stages. The cohort-level effects are found to be driven primarily by women, whose career development is on average more negatively impacted by parenting events than men, regardless of their life course trajectory. Early career decisions made by women upon entering parenthood contribute to gender gaps in mid- to longer-term mobility decisions, signifying the importance of early intervention.





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