Travel patterns and environmental effects now and in the future: implications of differences in energy consumption among socio-economic groups.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Travel patterns among different socio-economic groups in Sweden are investigated. It is shown that elderly persons, persons with low incomes and women in general do not travel extensively. Middle-aged persons, persons with high incomes and men travel much farther. Cars are the dominant transportation mode for all population groups. Aeroplanes are used mostly by high-income earners and men, while public transportation is mostly used by young people and women. Energy consumption for the different travel patterns differs substantially. Men with high incomes consume the most energy, with 94 000 MJ during one year, while elderly women consume 12 000 MJ. When compared to a calculated sustainable level of energy consumption for travel, most population groups are in excess. The level for sustainable energy consumption is calculated based on an assumed global potential for renewable energy of 360 EJ per year, divided equally among the global population. A certain share of this energy potential is supposed to be used for travelling. A scenario for 2020 is presented in which vehicle energy efficiency has increased and travel patterns have changed from what they are today. Sustainability can only be reached when both travel patterns and vehicle technology have changed radically. Differences in energy consumption for travel due to age and gender are likely to remain in the future. Scientific knowledge from the social domains seems to be important for devising efficient strategies for a sustainable society. Current focus on policy measures has been mainly on technical issues.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • energy consumption, future, sociology, sustainability, gender, age, Travel patterns, income, sociologi
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-417
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

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Project: ResearchInternal collaboration (LU)

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