Til Work Do Us Part: The Social Fallacy of Long-Distance Commuting

  • Erika SandowEmail author


This chapter focuses on the social implications of long-distance commuting on commuters and their spouses in Sweden. In a nationwide study, the extent to which long-distance commuting increases the odds that couples will separate is investigated through event history analysis. Discrete-time logistic regression models were employed with longitudinal data on Swedish couples in 2000 to explore the odds of separation following long-distance commuting during 1995–2005. As expected, the results show that separation rates are higher among long-distance commuting couples compared with non-commuting couples. More complex results show that for men the odds of separating are highest if the commuting is on a temporary basis and that women’s odds decrease when they continue commuting for a longer time period. The long-distance commuting effect on relationships also varies depending on residential context.


Long-distance commuting Social costs Household separations Longitudinal study Event history analysis 


  1. Allison, P. D. (1982). Discrete-time methods for the analysis of event histories. Sociological Methodology, 13, 61–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alonso, W. (1964). Location and land use: Toward a general theory of land rent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, I, 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersson, G. (1997). The impact of children on divorce risks of Swedish women. European Journal of Population, 13, 109–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barker, L., & Connolly, D. (2006). Long distance commuting in Scotland, Scottish Household Survey/Transport Research Planning Group Topic Report, Scottish Executive Social Research.Google Scholar
  5. Brueckner, J. K. (2000). Urban sprawl: Diagnosis and remedies. International Regional Science Review, 23(2), 160–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cassidy, T. (1992). Commuting-related stress: Consequences and implications. Employee Counseling Today, 4(2), 15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costa, S. (2004, May 11). A review of long-distance commuting: Implications for northern mining communities. Paper presented at the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and AGM Conference, Edmonton.Google Scholar
  8. Costa, G., Pickup, L., & Di-Martino, V. (1988). Commuting – A further stress factor for working people; evidence from the European Community, I. A. Review. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 60(5), 371–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Evans, G. W., Wener, R. E., & Phillips, D. (2002). The morning rush hour: Predictability and commuter stress. Environment and Behaviour, 34, 521–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fisher, P. A., & Malmberg, G. (2001). Settle people don’t move: On life course and (im)mobility in Sweden. International Journal of Population Geography, 7, 357–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flood, M., & Barbato, C. (2005). Off to work. Commuting in Australia. Discussion paper Number 78, Australian Institute.Google Scholar
  12. Friberg, T., Brusman, M., & Nilsson, M. (2004). Persontransporternas “vita fläckar”. Om arbetspendling med kollektivtrafik ur ett jämställdhetsperspektiv. Centrum för kommunstrategiska studier, Linköpings Universitet.Google Scholar
  13. Fults, K. K. (2010). A time perspective on gendered travel differences in Sweden. Licentiate Thesis in Infrastructure, Department of Transport and Economics, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  14. Gatersleben, B., & Uzzell, D. (2007). Affective appraisals of the daily commute. Comparing perceptions of drivers, cyclists, walkers, and users of public transport. Environment and Behavior, 39(3), 416–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gottholmseder, G., Nowotny, K., Pruckner, G. J., & Theurl, E. (2009). Stress perception and commuting. Health Economics, 18, 559–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, A. E., Hogarth, T., & Shackleton, R. E. (1999). Longer distance commuting as a substitute for migration in Britain: A review of trends issues and implications. International Journal of Population Geography, 5, 49–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoem, J. M. (1997). The impact of the first child on family stability. Stockholm Research Reports in Demography No. 119, Stockholm University.
  18. Houghton, D. S. (1993). Long-distance commuting: A new approach to mining in Australia. The Geographical Journal, 159(3), 281–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jain, J., & Lyons, G. (2008). The gift of travel time. Journal of Transport Geography, 16(2), 81–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kluger, A. N. (1998). Commute variability and strain. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 19(2), 147–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Koslowsky, M., Aizer, A., & Krausz, M. (1996). Stressor and personal variables in the commuting experience. International Journal of Manpower, 17(3), 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Krieger, M., & Fernandez, E. (2006). Too much or too little long-distance mobility in Europe? EU policies to promote and restrict mobility. Technical report, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.
  23. Lidström, A. (2006). Commuting and citizen participation in Swedish city-regions. Political Studies, 54, 865–888.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lyons, G., & Urry, J. (2005). Travel time use in the information age. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 39(2–3), 257–276.Google Scholar
  25. Lyons, G., & Chatterjee, K. (2008). A human perspective on the daily commute: Costs, benefits and trade-offs. Transport Reviews, 28(2), 181–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mokhtarian, P., & Salomon, I. (2001a). How derived is the demand of travel? Some conceptual and measurement considerations. Transportation Research Part A, 35, 695–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mokhtarian, P., & Salomon, I. (2001b). Understanding the demand for travel: It’s not purely “derived”. Innovations, 14(4), 355–380.Google Scholar
  28. Mokhtarian, P. L., Salomon, I., & Redmond, L. S. (2001). Understanding the demand for travel: It’s not purely ‘derived’. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 14(4), 355–380.Google Scholar
  29. Muth, R. F. (1969). Cities and housing; the spatial pattern of urban residential land use. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Ory, D., & Mokhtarian, P. (2005). When is getting there half the fun? Modeling the liking for travel. Transportation Research Part A, 39(2–3), 97–123.Google Scholar
  31. Páez, A., & Whalen, K. (2010). Enjoyment of commute: A comparison of different transportation modes. Transportation Research Part A, 44, 537–549.Google Scholar
  32. Plaut, P. (2006). The intra-household choices regarding commuting and housing. Transportation Research Part A, 40, 561–571.Google Scholar
  33. Pocock, B. (2003). The work/life collision. Sydney: The Federation Press.Google Scholar
  34. Putnam, R. D. (2001). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  35. Redmond, L., & Mokhtarian, P. (2001). The positive utility of the commute: Modeling ideal commuting time and relative desired commute amount. Transportation, 28, 179–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reneland, M. (1998). Befolkningens avstånd till service. GIS-projektet Tillgänglighet i svenska städer 1980 och 1995. Rapport 1998:5, Göteborg, Sverige: STACTH Stads- och trafikplanering Arkitektur Chalmers Tekniska Högskola.Google Scholar
  37. Renkow, M., & Hoover, D. (2000). Commuting, migration, and rural-urban population dynamics. Journal of Regional Science, 40(2), 261–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roberts, J., Hudgson, R., & Dolan, P. (2009). It’s driving her mad: gender differences in the effects of commuting on psychological well-being, Working papers 2009009. The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised May 2009.Google Scholar
  39. Rotter, J. C., Barnett, D. E., & Fawcett, M. L. (1998). On the road again: Dual-career commuter relationships. The Family Journal: Counselling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 6(1), 46–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rüger, H., & Ruppenthal, S. (2010). Advantages and disadvantages of job-related spatial mobility. In N. Schneider & B. Collet (Eds.), Mobile living across Europe II. Causes and consequences of job-related spatial mobility in cross- national perspective (pp. 69–93). Opladen/Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich Publishers.Google Scholar
  41. Russo, G., Reggiani, A., & Nijkamp, P. (2007). Spatial activity and labour market patterns: A connectivity analysis of commuting flows in Germany. The Annals of Regional Science, 41(4), 789–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sandow, E., & Westin, K. (2010). The persevering commuter – Duration of long-distance commuting. Transport Research Part A, 44, 433–445.Google Scholar
  43. Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (1993). It’s about time: Using discrete-time survival analysis to study duration and the timing of events. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 18(2), 155–195.Google Scholar
  44. So, K. S., Orazem, P. F., & Otto, D. M. (2001). The effects of housing prices, wages and commuting time on joint residential and job location choices. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 83(4), 1036–1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Statistics Sweden. (2003). Single and cohabiting adults in the population register, tax register and in reality, background statistics to population- and welfare statistics 2003:11, Statistics Sweden.Google Scholar
  46. Statistics Sweden. (2011). Kan yrket förklara skilsmässan? SCB tidskrift Välfärd, 2, 11–14.Google Scholar
  47. Storey, K. (2001). Fly-in/fly-out and fly-over: Mining and regional development in Western Australia. Australian Geographer, 32(2), 133–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2008). Commuting and life satisfaction in Germany. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 110(2), 339–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. (2010). Classification of Sweden’s regions. 2010-09-04.
  50. Swedish Institute for Transport and Communications Analysis. (2007). The national travel survey RES 2005/06. Swedish Institute for Transport and Communications Analysis (SIKA), No. 2007:19.Google Scholar
  51. Tolley, R. (1996). Green campuses: Cutting the environmental costs of commuting. Journal of Transport Geography, 4(3), 213–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Travisi, C. M., Camagni, R., & Nijkamp, P. (2010). Impacts of urban sprawl and commuting: A modeling study of Italy. Journal of Transport Geography, 18(3), 382–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. van der Klis, M., & Karsten, L. (2009). The commuter family as a geographical adaptive strategy for the work-family balance. Community, Work & Family, 12(3), 339–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van der Klis, M., & Mulder, C. H. (2008). Beyond the trailing spouse: The commuter partnership as an alternative to family migration. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 23(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Ommeren, J. (1996). Commuting and relocation of jobs and residences: A search perspective. PhD thesis, Virje Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  56. Van Ommeren, J., Van den Berg, G. J., & Gorter, C. (2000). Estimating the marginal willingness to pay for commuting. Journal of Regional Science, 40(3), 541–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vilhelmson, B. (2002). Rörlighet och förankring. Geografiska aspekter på människors välfärd. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet: Kulturgeografiska institutionen Handelshögskolan. Chorus 2002:1.Google Scholar
  58. Wachs, M., Taylor, B. D., Levine, N., & Ong, P. (1993). The changing commute: A case study of the jobs-housing relationship over time. Urban Studies, 30(10), 1711–1730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zax, J. S. (1991). The substitution between moves and quits. The Economic Journal, 101(409), 1510–1521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Economic History/Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research CEDARUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

Personalised recommendations