Chart of the Day: Vehicle Miles Traveled vs. Change in Wealth Per Capita (Selected Countries)

Here’s a chart that compares how much people drive to how wealthy they become, across a bunch of countries including Japan, Australia, and some of Europe’s larger nations. As you can see, the US is a bit higher than the rest:

annual VMT driving chart international

The chart comes from a study that compares rates of driving and preferences in London and Berlin. Here’s the conclusion from Citylab:

Until then, the unfortunate reality is that the car remains an ever-present pillar of society, our cities, and our daily lives. Even in big, dense European cities, the car is still cemented as the dominant and preferred mode of transportation, making it all the more difficult to shift toward alternate modes of transit. If this transition seems challenging in places like Berlin and London, just imagine the challenges facing smaller cities across Europe and the United States.


Kind of interesting to page through. The conventional wisdom I’ve always heard is that wealthier people in other countries have cars at almost the same rates as Americans, they simply don’t drive them as much because of other cost and convenience factors.

3 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Vehicle Miles Traveled vs. Change in Wealth Per Capita (Selected Countries)

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    The chart confused me (or maybe it was the intro to the chart). It shows how much driving people in each country have done as the country’s average income (i.e., per capita gdp) grew (or fell), not how much people of differing wealth drive.

  2. Alex

    I agree that the dire conclusion from the article doesn’t seem to be borne out by the chart itself, which seems to show widely varying levels of vehicle km traveled per capita for the same wealth level. Sure, driving rates increase with wealth to some degree everywhere, but they also plateau to some degree everywhere, according to the chart. So what? Diving a little deeper into the article, the example of Berlin at least shows a city where even if a lot of people prefer to drive, it can still be a comfortable place to travel on foot, by bike or transit in my experience.

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