Middle-Class, Cosmopolitans and Precariat among Millennials between Automobility and Multimodality

This paper refers to the concept of social milieus – which classifies societies according to socio-economic and socio-cultural criteria – and applies it to the everyday mobilities of young Millennials. Starting from three contrasting young social milieus from different social classes – cosmopolitans, middle-class and precariat – differences in material mode options and psychological evaluations of transport modes were investigated, which can be understood as (individual and collective) preconditions for participation in certain hegemonic or alternative transport regimes. For this purpose, quantitative data from Germany from the early 2010s of 852 young people aged 17 to 24 were used. As a result, this study contrasts the often-proclaimed linear regime shift towards multimodality, which would treat Millennials as a supposed collective driving force. The data reveal milieu-specific deviations from the predominant transition narrative as follows: First, young cosmopolitans seem to be the only group to share the historically momentous radical emotional distance from private automobility, which is reflected in ‘green’ multimodal behaviours. In contrast, the young middle-class shows signs of (conservatively) reproducing car-oriented behaviours. Finally, the young precariat faces socio-economic restrictions and tends to be outside the dualistic categorisation of automobility/multimodality. In conclusion, we see the concept of social milieus as an important thought-provoking impetus for a necessary change of perspective in international transport and mobility research to make the problem of social division in transportation more visible. If the direction towards multimodality aligns with the normative compass for a socio-ecological transformation, (transport) policies must provide even stronger support to milieu-specific framework conditions.


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