An Exploratory Survey of Women's Travel Attitudes and Behavior: Directions For Research

ABSTRACT - This paper uses a national sample of men and women to explore the possible differences and similarities of travel attitudes and behavior between men and women in general, and among several segments of women. While there were few dramatic differences, the differences which were found formed the basis for conclusions and recommendations for future research on possible needs of various segments of women.


Glenn S. Omura, Mary Lou Roberts, and W. Wayne Talarzyk (1980) ,"An Exploratory Survey of Women's Travel Attitudes and Behavior: Directions For Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 07, eds. Jerry C. Olson, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 705-708.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 7, 1980     Pages 705-708


Glenn S. Omura, Michigan State University

Mary Lou Roberts, Boston University

W. Wayne Talarzyk, Ohio State University

[The authors gratefully acknowledge research support provided by the Fred B. and Mabel Dean Hill Fund at the Ohio State University and Consumer Mail Panels of Market Facts, Inc. They also wish to thank Joseph Baratta for his assistance in the data analysis phase of this study. A more complete report on this study may be had in a working paper, WPS 79-41, at Support Services, College of Administrative Science, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210.]


This paper uses a national sample of men and women to explore the possible differences and similarities of travel attitudes and behavior between men and women in general, and among several segments of women. While there were few dramatic differences, the differences which were found formed the basis for conclusions and recommendations for future research on possible needs of various segments of women.


There appears to be growing research attention and some controversy in the study of the travel attitudes and behavior of women. Transportation needs of women in the paid labor force are often assumed to be no different from those of historical members of the labor force despite the rapidly growing number of women as part- and full-time workers (Rosenbloom 1978). However, the exact nature of the data needed for policy planning is unclear since the travel literature focuses minimally on specific segments of women.

The purpose of this paper is' to provide empirical information on travel attitudes and behavior of men versus women but primarily on some specific segments of women in order to suggest directions for more definitive research. The travel attitudes and behavior encompassed are: transportation mode choice, mobility and leisure activities, and transportation related shopping patterns. In order to give focus to this exploratory research, the literature will be reviewed in the context of these three areas.


Alternative Transportation Mode Choice

The literature indicates that mode choice is affected by system characteristics and perceptions of and preferences for various travel modes as well as individual and situational differences and constraints (Tybout, Hauser and Koppelman 1977). Since no published research was found which focused on women, this study examined a variety of alternative local transportation modes and specific subsets of women which have been mentioned as possible targets for special treatment by transportation policy-makers. The subsets are presence or absence of young children (under 20 years of age), employment status, size of city of residence, distance of residence from the central city areas, and age. The research question is, therefore, broad and exploratory:

Do these subsets of women exhibit systematic variations in alternative transportation mode choice?

Presence of such variations would indicate market segmentation based on differences in situational factors defined by the segments noted above may be useful for transportation and store site planning and developing the service mix for retailers.

Mobility and Leisure Activities

Increasing numbers of women feel that a woman's place is not necessarily in the home, and it has been found that this type of woman works and has a stronger desire to travel outside the United States (Reynolds, Crask and Wells, 1977). Knowledge about variations in mobility would enable more precise targeting of services and communications directed toward the mobile segment of the market. Hence, the research questions are:

Do different subsets of women exhibit systematic variations in mobility? Specifically, are different subsets likely to travel out of state often? Do a lot of traveling by car?

The families to whom working women belong spend less on transportation per family member (Bilkey, Massaro and Meehan 1962) but takes no more nor less vacations than single working head of household families (Strober and Weinberg 1977). However, the place to go on vacation is typically decided jointly between husband and wife (Sharp and Mott 1956; Cunningham and Green 1974; Davis and Rigaux 1974; Bonfield 1977).

Women in general are traveling more by air (Thayer 1977; Heckel 1978), while career-oriented working women are more likely to use airlines than non-working women (Bartos 1977) and younger women use cars more than airplanes on pleasure trips ("Women 18-34: What do They Buy?" 1964). The variables which were found to have explanatory power in the foregoing studies were used to study the following research questions:

Do different subsets of women exhibit systematic variations in leisure activities that require travel? Specifically, are different subsets more likely to take a long trip? More likely to want to take a vacation away from home? Drive around for pleasure?

Transportation-Related Shopping

Numerous daily travel decisions are made by women which emerge as shopping patterns. In studying the effect of transportation cost on shopping behavior, Crowell and Bowers (1977) found that consumers could achieve the lowest combined food, travel and shopping time by shopping more than one supermarket in a selected geographical area. Further savings may be had by in-home shopping. Most studies report that higher SES women do the most in-home shopping (Gillette 1976). There is also some evidence that "locked-in" circumstances (primarily lack of access to transportation and presence of young children) affect in-home shopping behavior. The general findings suggest several areas of study:

Do different subsets of women exhibit systematic variations in shopping patterns? Specifically, are different subsets most likely to include many stores into one trip? Do most of their grocery shopping in one store? Purchase groceries over the telephone?

Data on variations in shopping patterns will become increasingly valuable as business and policy planners attempt to accommodate changing life styles and energy-related problems.


Subjects, Procedures, and Operational Definitions

The above research questions were addressed through a national sample from the Consumer Mail Panel of Market Facts, Inc. tm provide a balanced sample parallel to census data for geographic divisions and within each division by total household income, population density and degree of urbanization, and age. Further, the sample was balanced by sex. Of the total 1,000 original households contacted, 722 usable questionnaires were returned. However, after a comparison of the original households contacted and the final respondents on age, education, household income, occupation of husband, and geographic residence showed an over-represented older group, 60 respondents were randomly selected from that group and removed to provide an adjusted, balanced sample of 662. Although many segmentation bases are analyzed, aside from the comparison of males with females, each of the bases are drawn from the female population only. Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the women were used to develop five segmented subject groups. Table 1 displays the five segments. The three areas of travel attitudes and behavior were operationalized in Table 2.






The segments were treated as criterion variables and the travel attitudes and behavior as "predictor" variables in several multiple discriminant analyses (MDA). When it was found that the "predictor" variable which contributed most to defining the discriminant functions often had low variability and hence did not discriminate among the groups, crosstabulations were used for greater interpretation. Only MDA results are given in detail, however, due to space limitations. Since this paper is exploratory in nature, MDA was used in a number of different ways. First, a stepwise procedure was used to identify primary discriminating variables. Second, although the predictive power of the MDA functions is not directly relevant, hold-out samples were used to validate the efficacy of the functions which contained only significant (p < .05) variables. Third, all predictor variables were forced into the equations to provide profiles for the broader understanding of the segments.


The following discussion focuses on the extreme characteristics found for each stratification and on all the differences that were found. Table 3 provides a summary of the discriminant analyses.

Alternative Transportation Modes

The frequency of trips by train and taxi contributed the most toward determining each segment's discriminant score relative to the other seven variables concerned with the choice of transportation. Examining differences between the stratifications of each segmentation base, in general, women tended to use their cars more often than men. More specifically, when examining women only, women with young children compared to women with no young children, full-time employed women and homemakers compared to part-time employed women, women in moderate size cities compared to women in small and large cities, and younger women compared to older women, tended to rely on cars more for transportation. Hence, no simple explanation for the greater reliance on cars by women over men is acceptable. In other areas, women in small and large cities, compared to women in moderate size cities, were more likely to express a favorable attitude toward car pooling. Apparently women in moderate size cities, who drive more, do not want to give up their independence. Finally, bus ridership unsurprisingly appears to increase with degree of urbanization.

Mobility and Leisure

The infrequency of driving for the sake of pleasure contributed the most toward defining each stratification of the segments. In testing for differences, women in general wanted vacations less than men. Within the female segmentation bases, comparing women without young children, to those with young children, the latter were less likely to want vacations. I n addition, those with young children traveled more frequently by car. Apparently, presence of young children required use of the car but may also reduce the likelihood of taking vacations away from the home. In other areas, women with rural and central city lifestyles do less driving for pleasure than women with urban lifestyles. All but one of the mobility and lel-sure items show this same pattern of similarity between rural and central city women. In general, there was a slight increase in mobility and leisure activities where cars are involved as age decreased, however there appeared to be a segment of the 55 and older group that had a greater interest in leisure activities than the rest of the group and of the younger age group as well.

Shopping Patterns

The shopping patterns variable which contributed most to profiling each stratification of the segments was the tendency to grocery shop in more than one store. Comparing stratifications, homemakers and older women tended to shop more than one store for groceries. Closer examination of the full-t/me and part-time women showed that part-time workers were more strongly in agreement about shopping only one store for groceries. It might be inferred that working Women have little time to shop different stores and that women who work part-time are more concerned with travel scheduling for repetitive tasks like grocery shopping. More generally, women tended less often to include many stores in one shopping trip than did men.




The major conclusions from these analyses must be that there were few major differences found among the different stratifications of women's groups. The analyses did indicate, however, that several questions were raised that need further research. First, although women are generally more reliant on cars than men, life situations may account for their greater reliance on cars. What are the motivations behind these travel attitudes and behavior?

Second, despite the finding that women with young children have greater reliance on cars, their attitudes in favor of car pooling and/or trying to minimize shopping trips suggest that policies to ease the child care responsibility of mothers and/or formalize car pooling or similar transportation-sharing could meet with acceptance and reduce personal car use. Research is needed to explore various mechanisms to facilitate this acceptance.

Third, the similarities between full-time employed women and homemakers, in direct contrast to part-time employed women, deserves some closer attention. A natural monotonic ordering relating degree of outside work and travel attitudes and behavior was markedly lacking.

Fourth, small city residents apparently have strong feelings about mass transit. It may be, for example, that small cities have comparable transportation problems to large cities, that they are apprehensive about the future, and/or that the nature of social interactions associated with cities of various sizes dictates travel attitudes and behavior.

Fifth, since central city residents more often took an alternative transportation mode than wastefully driving alone, perhaps greater efficiencies can be had by focusing on travel needs of suburban residents. Alternatively, this finding may suggest that non-central city residents have different kinds of needs for local transportation than the central city dwellers.

Sixth, why do older women appear to be frugal in their use of cars for local travel but less so in their use of transportation for shopping? Further, since leisure activities was an area in which a significant portion of older women was particularly involved, what kinds of leisure activities can transportation facilitate?

The above analyses and conclusions demonstrate that various subsets of women do indeed have systematically varying travel attitudes and behavior and that future research must:

1.  Clearly define groups of women who have different attitudes toward a wide range of transportation-related issues such as mass transit, efficient trip scheduling, and car pooling, and the causes or motivations underlying these attitudes.

2.  Define situations in which these attitudes are and are not primary determinants of transportation-related behavior.


Bartos, Rena (1977), "The Moving Target: The Impact of Women's Employment on Consumer Behavior," Journal of Marketing, 41, 31-37.

Bilkey, Warren J., Vincent G. Massaro and James P. Meehan, Jr. (1962), "The Structural Effect on Consumer Disbursements of Wives Working," Review of Economics and Statistics, 44, 221-224.

Bonfield, E. N. (1977), "Perception of Marital Roles in Decision Processes: Replication and Extensions," in Advances in Consumer Research.

Crowell, Patsy M. and Jean S. Bowers (1977), "Impacts of Time and Transportation Costs on Food Shopping," Journal of Consumer Affairs, 11, 102-109.

Cunningham, Isabella C. M. and Robert T. Green (1974), "Purchasing Roles in the U.S. Family, 1955 and 1973," Journal of Marketing, 38, 25-32.

Davis, Harry and Benny P. Rigaux (1974), "Perception of Marital Roles in Decision Processes," Journal of Consumer Research, 1, 51-62.

Gillett, Peter L. (1976), "In-Home Shoppers: An Overview," Journal of Marketing, 49, 81-88.

Heckel, Fred W. (1978), Speech presented to local chapter, American Marketing Association, March 16.

Reynolds, Fred D., Melvin R. Crask and William D. Wells (1977), "The Modern Feminine Life Style," Journal of Marketing, 41, 38-45.

Rosenbloom, Sandra (1978), "Editorial: The Need for Study of Women's Travel Issues," Transportation, 7, 347-350.

Sharp, Harry and Paul Mott (1956), "Consumer Decisions in the Metropolitan Family," Journal of Marketing, 22, 149-156.

Strober, Myra H. and Charles B. Weinberg (1977), "Working Wives and Major Family Expenditures," Journal of Consumer Research, 4, 141-147.

Thayer, Russel (1977), "Business Women and Air Travel," Speech to Women in Business, Atlanta, Georgia, July 28.

Tybout, Alice M., John R. Hauser and Frank S. Koppelman (1977) "Consumer Oriented Transportation Planning: An Integrated Methodology for Marketing Consumer Perceptions, Preference and Behavior," in Advances in Consumer Research, 5, 426-434.

"Women 18-35: What Do They Buy?" (1964), Printer's Ink, 286 January 17, 36-39.



Glenn S. Omura, Michigan State University
Mary Lou Roberts, Boston University
W. Wayne Talarzyk, Ohio State University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 07 | 1980

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