March 20, 2010

Young and middle-aged males giving up autonomy: Evidence from driver's licenses

For a post I'm putting together (at the data blog) on the change in young people's autonomy over time, I've been looking at numbers on driver's licenses (see here). Why? For the average American, having a license is one of the most important steps toward independence, whether financial, social, or otherwise. I assume the reasons for that are obvious.

But something else has struck me for the last year or so -- I always seem to see young males being driven around by girls. Sometimes it's clearly his girlfriend, but other times it could just be a friend who he pestered into giving him a ride. If I saw this as many times as I saw the guy driving around the girl, then no big deal. But it really does seem like the girls are more likely to drive around guys than vice versa. I notice because it's disgusting -- aren't you the one with the balls? You are supposed to be the one in charge -- the leader, the coordinator, the doer -- not some child being chauffeured around by a girl, who must feel more like your mommy than your lover. Either learn how to drive or just hand over your balls to her now and make it official.

Sure enough, the data back up my hunch. They allow you to see what percent of the male or female population has a license, by age group. As recently as 2000 (and at least back to 1994), males were more likely than females to have a license in all age groups, which is as it should be. It shouldn't even be close. Starting in 2001, though, females start to dominate in the youngest age groups -- the 19 and under and the 20-24 groups. The most recent data for 2008 show that females now dominate not only those groups but the 25-29, 30-34, and the 35-39 groups as well. So all young people and a good amount of middle-aged people -- anyone from 15 to 39 -- live in a world where males are less independent in any area of life that requires a car. Here is the difference between the % of females and % of males with licenses by age group in 2008 (so positive means females more likely to have licenses):

19 and under 0.2
20-24 3.8
25-29 4.6
30-34 2.2
35-39 0.3
40-44 -1.2
45-49 -1.6
50-54 -2.7
55-59 -3.9
60-64 -7.2
65-69 -10.7
70-74 -14.7
75-79 -19.0
80-84 -25.1
85+ -34.2
All ages

Women in their 20s are several percentage points more likely to be able to drive than their male age-mates, and the gap is growing (since not long ago the gap went in the other direction). Unlike other areas of life where you can make an argument for feminism taking away opportunities from qualified men and giving them to less qualified women, getting a driver's license is not a zero-sum game -- just because a female gets one doesn't prevent a qualified male from getting one.

The widening gap is due to either a fall for males and rise for females, or both groups falling but males falling even lower. So this is a case of males increasingly dropping out, not males staying roughly the same and females gaining more and more to make up for previous very low levels. After abdicating their responsibility, though, of course they have to rely on someone to drive them around, and that person is more likely to be a girl than a guy. It doesn't look so bad when your buddy gives you a lift, but to have to depend so much on girls for your basic social existence? That's beyond pathetic. Not to sound too alarmist, but you wonder how long it'll take before white America looks like black Africa where the men are a bunch of parasitic losers relying on the independent womenfolk for their survival.


  1. I'll second the DWI comment and expand it to license suspensions in general. Note, however, that if people with suspended licenses still count as having licenses, this explanation wouldn't apply.

    About the only other thing I can think of is that the very high cost of insurance for younger men may keep some from getting licensed.


  2. I doubt it. To produce this pattern, male DWIs would have to be shooting up -- the decline is around 5 percentage points for some age groups -- but not for females (they might actually have to be falling).

    But drinking among young people has been falling since its peak in the mid-late 1990s, along with smoking and using hard drugs.

    And these guys who I see being driven around by girls aren't drunks or partiers, just pansies.

  3. I thought the same thing -- lost driver's licenses. There are a number of ways one can lose a license aside from DUI. For instance: unpaid tickets. Young men are a lot more likely to get moving violations, and tickets have gotten hugely more expensive in recent years.


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