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Machines of YouthAmerica's Car Obsession$
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Gary S. Cross

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226341644

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226341781.001.0001

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The End of Youth Car Culture?

The End of Youth Car Culture?

(p.177) 9 The End of Youth Car Culture?
Machines of Youth

Gary S. Cross

University of Chicago Press

Despite the vast increase in automobility everywhere, the American obsession with cars still stands out. Yet, despite the multicar household, with vehicles aplenty for teens, the lure of the automobile as a transition to adulthood seems to be in decline. By 2005, reports of delay in teen applications for driver’s licenses were common. The Recession of 2008, increased youth unemployment, and education costs, along with higher car prices provide an economic explanation. And, public pressure, backed up by new legislation, made getting the once coveted license at 16 far more difficult. The acquisition of mechanical skills, long the hallmark of the transition from boy to man--especially in the working class—has declined with the computerization of vehicles. Teens today also have substituted digital or “virtual” liberation from the constraints of family for the old mechanical/physical freedom with the car. And liberation from elders has come earlier with the smartphone. Yet not all agree that growing up with cars is over. Millennials especially note the persistence of auto enthusiasm in their generation and insist that their car culture is simply being ignored by self-absorbed elders, unable to look beyond their own youth of Deuce Coups and GTOs.

Keywords:   decline, driver's license, teen, liberation, smartphones, Millennials, car culture

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