Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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‘Forced Car Ownership’ in the UK and Germany: Socio-Spatial Patterns and Potential Economic Stress Impacts

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Abstract:  The notion of ‘forced car ownership’ (FCO), born out of transport research on UK rural areas, is used to define households who own cars despite limited economic resources. FCO is thought to result in households cutting expenditure on other necessities and/or reducing travel activity to the bare minimum, both of which may result in social exclusion. Social exclusion research, on the other hand, has paid much attention to ‘material deprivation’, i.e., the economic strain and enforced lack of durable goods arising from low income. However, the FCO phenomenon suggests that, among households with limited resources, the enforced possession and use of a durable good can be the cause of material deprivation, economic stress and vulnerability to fuel price increases. In this study, we use 2012 EU ‘Income and Living Conditions’ data (EU-SILC) to shed light on FCO in two European countries (UK and Germany). Through secondary data analysis we are able to show: the social and spatial patterns of FCO; key differences between FCO and ‘car deprived’ households; the intensity of social exclusion, material deprivation, and economic strain among FCO households; and overlaps between FCO and economic stress in other life domains (domestic fuel poverty, housing cost overburden). The results also show contrasting spatial patterns of FCO in Germany (higher incidence in rural areas) and UK (similar incidence in urban and rural areas), which can be explained in light of the different socio-spatial configurations prevalent in the two countries. We conclude by discussing implications for future research and policy-making.

Keywords:  car use; economic stress; forced car ownership; material deprivation; social exclusion; transport



© Giulio Mattioli. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.