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Costly Commuting and the Job Ladder

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Abstract

Even though workers in the UK spent just 1,000 pounds on commuting in 2017, the economic loss may be far higher because of the congestion externality arising from the way in which one worker's commute affects the commuting time of others. I provide empirical evidence that commuting time affects job acceptance, pointing to large indirect costs of congestion. To interpret the empirical facts and quantify the costs of congestion, I build a model featuring a frictional labor market within a metropolitan area. By endogenizing commuting congestion in a labor search model, the model connects labor market responses to urban policies. Workers evaluate job offers based on their productivity and commuting costs, taking congestion as given, but by accepting and commuting to distant jobs, affect other workers' labor market outcomes. Through this mechanism, equilibrium moving decisions, housing rent, and wages are tightly linked to congestion. Calibrating the model to the local labor market around London, I show that the effect of the congestion externality is to significantly decrease welfare and increase wage inequality. I quantify the effects of a congestion tax on labor market outcomes, and show that the welfare-maximizing tax has substantial negative effects on inequality, but comes at a cost of higher unemployment.

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  • Jean Flemming, 2020. "Costly Commuting and the Job Ladder," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2020-025, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2020-25
    DOI: 10.17016/FEDS.2020.025
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    1. Morchio, Iacopo & Moser, Christian, 2018. "The Gender Pay Gap: Micro Sources and Macro Consequences," MPRA Paper 99276, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Mar 2020.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Job search; Wage distribution; Congestion externality; Commuting;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • R13 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General Equilibrium and Welfare Economic Analysis of Regional Economies
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise

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