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2022 Wyoming Workforce Annual Report

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Wyoming Labor Force Trends

May 2023 | Volume 60, No. 5

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Teen Drivers in Wyoming: Trends and Wages

Article | Tables and Figures

by: Matthew Halama, Senior Economist


Although the number of teenage drivers decreased substantially from 2000 to 2010, Wyoming has seen an increase in young drivers over the last few years. This article discusses the changes in Wyoming’s teenage population, the number of youth with driver’s licenses, and how many earn wages in the state.


In 2014, the Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services published an article titled, “The Decline in Teen Drivers: What It May Mean for Wyoming” (Moore, 2014). That article identified a long-term trend of fewer teens getting their driver’s licenses, and discussed how the decline may affect a variety of different groups such as employers, public safety organizations, and the youth themselves.

Many of these potential consequences remain. For example, employers may be reluctant to hire youths that do not possess driver’s licenses because they may not be as reliable as someone with a license. If youths without driver’s licenses have a difficult time finding employment, it would hinder their ability to develop soft skills in the workplace. If teen drivers forego their driver’s license until they reach adulthood, society runs the risk of having inexperienced drivers on the road who did not get instruction from a parent or adult who would have normally supervised the teen if they had received a license earlier.

The decline in teen drivers is not unique to Wyoming, and has been discussed nationally. Many news articles rely on national survey data to report trends in teen drivers. Writing for the Associated Press, Fryer (2021) noted how the decline in teen drivers started with millennials (those born from 1981 to 1996) and declined further with Generation Z (those born after 1996; Pew Research Center, 2018). Using Federal Highway Administration data, the author stated that approximately 61% of 18-year-olds had a driver’s license, down from 80% in 1983. The percentage of 16-year-olds with a driver’s license during that same period decreased from 46% to 25%.

The literature published by R&P so far has provided a primer on the decline of teen drivers nationally as well as the number of licensed drivers in Wyoming ages 15-19. The new research presented in this article explores how the trend in licensed drivers has progressed since 2016, and also compares wages for teen drivers with a license to those without a license. This article is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the methodology, namely where the data came from, how it was collected that led to its analysis. The second section deals with the results of the data analysis while the third part provides a discussion of the results.


R&P collects and maintains quarterly wage record data through the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system from 1992 to present, which covers approximately 92% of Wyoming jobs (Bullard, 2008). For this research, the Wage Records database was linked to the driver’s license file provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Linking these two databases allows R&P to identify variables such as age, gender, wages, number of quarters worked, whether a person with wages had a driver’s license, and more.

Total population data for youths ages 15-19 living in Wyoming came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey "that provides vital information on a yearly basis about our nation and its people" (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022). For the purposes of this research, ACS five-year estimates were used to determine population data, including age and gender.


While Wyoming’s 15-19 population decreased over the last decade, the number of teen drivers and those with wages increased (see Figure 1). In 2010, the estimated population of youths ages 15-19 in Wyoming was 38,736; by 2021, that number had decreased to 37,649 (-1,087, or -2.8%; see Table 1). The number of licensed teen drivers in Wyoming increased from 30,431 to 30,731 (300, or 1.0%). The number of youth working in Wyoming also increased, from 20,652 to 22,113 (1,461, or 7.1%). In fact, Wyoming had more teen drivers (30,731) and teens working (22,113) in 2021 than any year dating back to 2010.

The percentage of teen drivers and teens working in Wyoming decreased from 2010 to 2012 before mostly increasing in the years after (see Figure 2). The percentage of teen drivers was calculated by dividing the number of licensed teen drivers in the driver’s license file by the Census Bureau’s population estimates. For example, in 2021, the 30,731 licensed teen drivers accounted for 81.6% of the population of 37,649. The percentage of teen drivers grew from 78.6% in 2010 to 81.6% in 2021. Similarly, the percentage of teens working was calculated by dividing the number of teens found in Wyoming’s wage records database by the population estimates. In 2021, the 22,113 teens working accounted for 58.7% of the teenage population.

As shown in Table 2 and Figure 3, the majority of teens working in Wyoming also had a driver’s license. Among teens working in Wyoming in 2021, 19,581 (88.5%) had a driver’s license, while 2,532 (11.5%) did not. From 2010 to 2021, the number of youth working in Wyoming with a driver’s license increased by 2,405 (14.0%), while the number working without a driver’s license decreased by 944 (-27.2%).

The average wages of youths working in Wyoming steadily increased from $4,860 in 2010 to $6,824 in 2021 ($1,964, or 40.4%; see Table 3). This research also found that youth with a driver’s license earned substantially more than those without (see Table 3 and Figure 4). In 2021, youth with a driver’s license earned $2,485 more (53.7%) on average than youth without a driver’s license.

Discussion and Conclusion

Previous research by R&P examined teenage driver’s license attainment from 2000-2013 and the potential consequences of a decline in young drivers. The research presented in this article shows that in the years that followed, the number of licensed teenage drivers increased from 30,431 in 2010 to 30,731 in 2021. In the years in between, however, there have been both increases and decreases in teen drivers.

In addition, the number of youth working in Wyoming increased each year from 2017 to 2021, except for a decrease in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increase in teens driving and participating in Wyoming’s workforce could help address some of the potential consequences discussed in the introduction of this article. For example, teens who are able to drive and work at a younger age have more of an opportunity to develop soft skills at their jobs, such as showing up to work on time and communicating with coworkers.

Finally, during every year that wage and driver’s license data were collected, teens with driver’s licenses earned higher average nominal wages. Teens with driver’s licenses may have more opportunities in terms of the type of job worked and the hours they are available to work.


Bullard, D. (2008, February 8). Covered employment and wages for second quarter 2007: Payroll growth moderates. Research & Planning, WY DWS. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://doe.state.wy.us/lmi/QCEW/07q2.htm

Fryer, J. (2021, August 4). Kids and cars: Today’s teens in no rush to start driving. The Associated Press. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://tinyurl.com/2dtwpn3u

Moore, M. (2014, September). The decline in teen drivers: What it may mean for Wyoming. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 51(9). Research & Planning, WY DWS. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0914/a1.htm

Pew Research Center. (2018, March 1). The generations defined. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.pewresearch.org/st_18-02-27_generations_defined/

U.S. Census Bureau. (2022, June). About the American Community Survey Retrieved May 30, 2023, from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/about.html