Operationalizing gendered transportation preferences: A psychological framework incorporating time constraints and risk aversion

Date: 3/23/19
Principal Researchers: Manish Shirgaokar

Urban and Regional Planning Assistant Professor Manish Shirgaokar published an article in March 2019 in Transport Policy about the influence of gender when choosing a method of transportation. Women often commute longer, and identify physical safety as a major factor when they are deciding how to reach their destination.  The full article, "Operationalizing gendered transportation preferences: A psychological framework incorporating time constraints and risk aversion" is available online here


  • Women commute longer; use NMT modes more, but private modes less, than men.

  • Women mention time constraints less often than men.

  • Physical safety during evening travel is high on women's minds.

  • Factors affecting transportation decision are gender socialized.

  • Gender-specific psychological loads can be enumerated to design gendered policies.


The negative outcomes of ingrained gender socialization are evident in many contemporary societies. For example, women spend more time on home care and child rearing tasks than men do. A key impact of gender-based roles, hence, is larger time constraints for women compared to men. Additionally, in some countries women are exposed to daily sexual harassment during day-to-day travel. With the maturing of a middle class in the emerging economies, however, women are gaining financial independence. This has translated to gender-specific travel preferences, which remain understudied. I ask: how do gender-based preferences about time constraints and risk aversion express themselves in the travel choices of young adults? The research relies on purposive sampling where 154 participants at various stages of their young adult lives were recruited for 21 gender-separated focus groups. The sample includes graduate students and early/mid-career professionals in Mumbai. The aim was to explore reasons for differences in the travel behaviors of middle-class, college-educated, professional women and men. Relative to the larger population, this demographic group is less likely to have differences in travel preferences by gender. Yet the evidence suggests that time limitations and physical safety are experienced and expressed differently by each gender. For example, women speak more about safety than about time. I propose a psychological framework to expand transportation research by systematically investigating and incorporating such gendered travel preferences.