Measuring Car Pride and its Implications for Car Ownership and Use across Individuals, Cities, and Countries

TitleMeasuring Car Pride and its Implications for Car Ownership and Use across Individuals, Cities, and Countries
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMoody JC
Academic DepartmentDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering

As the world recognizes that its growing reliance on private, fossil fuel-based vehicles is unsustainable, understanding how to avoid growth in car ownership and how to shift current users towards more efficient, environmentally-friendly, safe, and inclusive alternatives is a critical vision for meeting sustainable (transportation) development goals. Policy makers looking to shift consumer behavior away from cars need a more rigorous understanding of how different attitudes play a role in influencing car ownership and use and how this might vary by people and place. In this dissertation we provide deep insight into one of the many symbolic and affective motives behind car consumption: “car pride” or the attribution of social status and personal image to owning and using a car.

Using data collected from individuals in two U.S. cities and in 51 countries around the world, we develop and demonstrate the reliability, validity, and invariance of polytomous (12, 7-point Likert-format statements) and dichotomous (9, dichotomous statements) sur- vey measures for car pride using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). With these measures, we explore variations in car pride across individuals, cities, and countries using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Across individuals, we find that those who are younger, male, and have higher incomes generally have higher car pride. Controlling for individual charac- teristics, we find that car pride is influenced by context. Between U.S. cities, we find that Houston has higher car pride than New York City. Across countries, we find that less devel- oped countries exhibit higher car pride. We also disentangle the bidirectional causal relations between car pride and car consumption using instrumental variable (IV) techniques. We find that car pride strongly predicts car ownership, while no statistically significant relation ex- ists in the opposite direction. Car pride additionally predicts car use, but only through its relation with car ownership (mediator). In the reverse direction, car use strongly reinforces car pride. While the directions of these relations appear almost universal across contexts, their strengths differ by country, emphasizing the importance of taking national context into account when measuring and interpreting symbolic motivations for car consumption.

This dissertation builds a systematic understanding of car pride and its relations with car consumption across individuals, cities, and countries. For researchers, it serves as an exam- ple of methodological good-practice for empirical studies of attitude-behavior relations in transportation. For policymakers, it builds awareness of how policies can target attitudi- nal, social, and cultural factors, such as car pride, that present additional obstacles to the adoption of more sustainable transportation alternatives at both the individual and national levels.