Social Status or Going Green: The Habits of Hybrid Car Drivers

Research at AAEA Annual Meeting looks at behaviors of people who buy hybrids

Honda, Nissan, BMW . . . just about every car company is putting out a hybrid version of its vehicles. The Toyota Prius is one of the most popular and distinctive hybrids on the road.

Most analyses show you can save about $1,000 a year on gas by driving a hybrid, but are people really buying hybrids to save money and the environment?

That is the focus of “Hybrid Vehicles and Household Driving Behavior: Implications for Miles Traveled and Gasoline Consumption,” a paper by Shanxia Sun and Michael S. Delgado of Purdue University, and Neha Khanna of Binghamton University, that will be featured at the 2017 AAEA Annual Meeting in Chicago, July 30–August 1.

“The social signal value of environmentally-friendly vehicles is one of the reasons people buy hybrids, and people are actually paying more for the social signal,” Sun said, “so we would like to know if people drive more to capitalize on that social signal.”

Sun and her co-authors looked at the driving habits of nearly 40,000 households nationwide, including many with a hybrid in the driveway.

So does having a hybrid mean people are likely to drive more miles? This is just one of the many driving behaviors analyzed in this research.

This data-driven look inside the minds of hybrid car buyers and drivers will be presented as part of a session on Tuesday, August 1, at 1:15 p.m.

About AAEA

Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 20 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit

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