Explaining US travel behavior with perceived threat of pandemic, consumer sentiment, and economic policy uncertainty


Junwook Chi

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - car, mode - mass transit, mode - pedestrian, ridership - behaviour, ridership - perceptions, ridership - demand, ridership - mode choice


COVID-19, Consumer sentiment, Economic policy uncertainty, Transport modes, Travel behavior


Since the COVID-19 outbreak, consumer behavior has been affected by the perceived threat of the pandemic and economic uncertainty. This paper aims to explore the dynamic effects of COVID-19, consumer sentiment, economic policy uncertainty, and fuel prices on travel behavior in the United States. Using updated daily trip data, the results show that consumer sentiment has a positive long-run impact on travel demand for air and auto, suggesting that a positive change in consumer sentiment can boost demand for these modes of transportation in the long term. Additionally, consumer sentiment has a favorable effect (1.34) on demand for long-distance trips, but it has a negative impact (−0.42) on the number of people staying at home. Economic and political shocks have a detrimental impact on demand for air and auto travel, suggesting that consumers reduce the frequency and cost of these transport services if they have pessimistic expectations about the future state of the economy and policy. However, in the short term, US travelers appear to be insensitive to shocks in consumer sentiment and economic policy uncertainty. Regarding the perceived threat of the pandemic, the results indicate that rising COVID-19 cases have a negative long-term effect on demand for air travel (−0.09) and public transit (−0.19), while they are positively associated with demand for auto travel (0.06). Similarly, the increasing number of deaths due to COVID-19 has led to a shift from shared-use mass transportation (air travel and public transit) to private autos and non-motorized travel, such as walking in the short term.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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