Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Demography

First Advisor

Michel Guillot

Abstract

Over the past Century, the car has become an integral part of American society. While automobiles allowed people to travel with unprecedented mobility and independence, they also became a major source of health hazard. Despite large declines in recent decades, motor vehicle deaths still remain significant and are understudied in the discipline of demography. This dissertation looks “under the hood” to reveal and explain patterns of motor vehicle fatalities at the population-level. In the first chapter, I examine why higher unemployment rate is associated with lower motor vehicle death rate. Using state-level data from 2003 to 2013, I find that fatal crashes involving large trucks explain the strong fluctuations between macroeconomic conditions and motor vehicle deaths. Chapter 2 describes the historical changes in the black-white differentials in motor vehicle fatalities. I find that changes in tripmaking rates, risk of death, and socioeconomic status between blacks and whites all play a role in explaining this differential. In chapter 3, I delve further into the current black-white differentials in motor vehicle fatality rates and quantify the extent to which travel amount and risk of death account for these differences. The results show that blacks experience higher motor vehicle fatality rates compared to whites because they are at higher risk of dying when they travel despite travelling fewer miles than whites.

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