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Car ownership rates say less about our affluence 

[Cross-posted] At high school, one teacher told us that he was proud of the fact that , when he was younger, had the highest in the world, due to our world-beating in the 1950s. In the 1980s, we were still in the top five, but behind the and .
   It’s still high today, but it’s hardly anything to be proud of. As the mood of our society has changed toward one that is more conscious, car ownership is not as cool as it once was—in fact, car ownership may be said to be things up. Still, the love affair with the car has not abated, and with now getting excited over the , we may see a slight change in ownership rates there.
   Here are the 2004 ownership rates from Earth Trends, which suggest that we have been lousy at getting up to speed with consumer demands. Still no one has considered putting wifi into trains, even if Singapore Airlines has done so with planes for years. About the only innovation that I have seen are the GPSs that tell people at a bus stop how far away their bus is. They aren’t enough.
   There seems to be little correlation between ownership and . Iceland leads the table these days, and their petrol more than any western country I know of. There are other interpretations which I won’t go in to for a casual blog post.
   I have compiled this manually, so there may be errors or omissions in the ordering. The number is vehicles per 1,000 people. I have only noted 450 and up. Japan is just outside at 441, which suggests, inter alia, relative progress in public transportation since I last looked at these stats in the 1980s. We and the US seem to have swapped places in the last 20-odd years, which to me means that the Americans have done better with public transportation than we have.
   One of the few good sides to our stats is that New Zealand is a spread-out country with low population density where the car is more a necessity. The other favourable interpretation is that there are more young men buying , whereas 20 years ago they could only afford a motorcycle. Environmentally, this might not be ideal, and young men are high-risk for insurers—but the flip side is that they stand a better chance of surviving inside a car than on a bike.
   Whatever the interpretations, I don’t believe these are useful indicators of a society’s affluence any more.

647 Luxembourg
601 Iceland
592 New Zealand
590 Italy
546 Germany
523 Malta
516 Switzerland
503 Austria
495 France
468 Belgium
465 USA
457 Sweden
456 Slovenia
451 UK
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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