IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Commuting time and the gender gap in labor market participation


  • Lídia Farré

    (Universitat de Barcelona & IAE (CSIC))

  • Jordi Jofre-Monseny

    (Universitat de Barcelona & IEB)

  • Juan Torrecillas

    (Universitat de Barcelona & IEB)


This paper investigates the contribution of increasing travel times to the persistent gender gap in labor market participation. In doing so, we estimate the labor supply elasticity of commuting time from a sample of men and women in US cities using microdata from the Census for the last decades. To address endogeneity concerns, we adopt an instrumental variables approach that exploits the shape of cities as an exogenous source of variation for travel times. Our estimates indicate that a 10 minutes increase in commuting decreases the probability of married women to participate in the labor market by 4.6 percentage points. In contrast, the estimated effect on men is small and statistically insignificant. We also find that women with children and immigrant women originating from countries with more gendered social norms respond the most to commuting time variations. This evidence suggests that the higher burden of family responsibilities supported by women may magnify the negative effect of commuting on their labor supply. From our findings, we conclude that the increasing trend in travel times observed in the US and in many European countries during the last decades may have contributed to the persistence of gender disparities in labor market outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Lídia Farré & Jordi Jofre-Monseny & Juan Torrecillas, 2020. "Commuting time and the gender gap in labor market participation," Working Papers 2020/03, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:doc2020-03

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olof Åslund & John Östh & Yves Zenou, 2010. "How important is access to jobs? Old question--improved answer," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 389-422, May.
    2. Fredrik Andersson & John C. Haltiwanger & Mark J. Kutzbach & Henry O. Pollakowski & Daniel H. Weinberg, 2018. "Job Displacement and the Duration of Joblessness: The Role of Spatial Mismatch," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 203-218, May.
    3. Petrongolo, Barbara & Ronchi, Maddalena, 2020. "Gender gaps and the structure of local labor markets," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    4. Albert Saiz, 2010. "The Geographic Determinants of Housing Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 125(3), pages 1253-1296.
    5. Sanderson, Eleanor & Windmeijer, Frank, 2016. "A weak instrument F-test in linear IV models with multiple endogenous variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 190(2), pages 212-221.
    6. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
    7. Henrik Kleven & Camille Landais & Jakob Egholt Søgaard, 2019. "Children and Gender Inequality: Evidence from Denmark," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 181-209, October.
    8. Alessandra Fogli & Raquel Fernandez, 2009. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work, and Fertility," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 146-177, January.
    9. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2010. "Changes in Transportation Infrastructure and Commuting Patterns in US Metropolitan Areas, 1960-2000," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 378-382, May.
    10. Roberts, Jennifer & Hodgson, Robert & Dolan, Paul, 2011. "“It's driving her mad”: Gender differences in the effects of commuting on psychological health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1064-1076.
    11. van Ommeren, Jos N. & Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnau, Eva, 2011. "Are workers with a long commute less productive? An empirical analysis of absenteeism," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 1-8, January.
    12. Henrik Kleven & Camille Landais & Johanna Posch & Andreas Steinhauer & Josef Zweimüller, 2019. "Child Penalties across Countries: Evidence and Explanations," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 109, pages 122-126, May.
    13. Laurent Gobillon & Thierry Magnac & Harris Selod, 2011. "The effect of location on finding a job in the Paris region," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(7), pages 1079-1112, November.
    14. Erika Sandow & Olle Westerlund & Urban Lindgren, 2014. "Is Your Commute Killing You? On the Mortality Risks of Long-Distance Commuting," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 46(6), pages 1496-1516, June.
    15. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2000. "Power Couples: Changes in the Locational Choice of the College Educated, 1940–1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 115(4), pages 1287-1315.
    16. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "An Evaluation of Instrumental Variable Strategies for Estimating the Effects of Catholic Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(4), pages 791-821.
    17. J. Ignacio Gimenez-Nadal & José Alberto Molina, 2014. "Commuting Time and Labour Supply in the Netherlands A Time Use Study," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, University of Bath, vol. 48(3), pages 409-426, September.
    18. Matthew E. Kahn, 2010. "New Evidence on Trends in the Cost of Urban Agglomeration," NBER Chapters, in: Agglomeration Economics, pages 339-354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Holian, Matthew J. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2015. "Household carbon emissions from driving and center city quality of life," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 362-368.
    20. Black, Dan A. & Kolesnikova, Natalia & Taylor, Lowell J., 2014. "Why do so few women work in New York (and so many in Minneapolis)? Labor supply of married women across US cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 59-71.
    21. Thomas Le Barbanchon & Roland Rathelot & Alexandra Roulet, 0. "Gender Differences in Job Search: Trading off Commute against Wage," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 136(1), pages 381-426.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Richard Fabling & David C. Maré, 2020. "Measuring commute patterns over time: Using administrative data to identify where employees live and work," Working Papers 20_05, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
    2. Oreffice, Sonia & Sansone, Dario, 2022. "Commuting to Work and Gender-Conforming Social Norms: Evidence from Same-Sex Couples," IZA Discussion Papers 15332, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Areum Jo & Sang-Kyeong Lee & Jaecheol Kim, 2020. "Gender Gaps in the Use of Urban Space in Seoul: Analyzing Spatial Patterns of Temporary Populations Using Mobile Phone Data," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(16), pages 1-22, August.
    4. Giménez-Nadal, José Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Velilla, Jorge, 2022. "School commuting behaviors: A time-use exploration," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1194, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    5. Alexander Daminger, 2023. "Homeowner Subsidies and Suburban Living: Empirical Evidence from a Subsidy Repeal," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 79(2), pages 111-145.
    6. Borghorst, Malte & Mulalic, Ismir & van Ommeren, Jos, 2021. "Commuting, Children and the Gender Wage Gap," Working Papers 15-2021, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    7. Palacios, Saúl, 2021. "Desplazamientos y autoempleo en Francia: diferencias por género [Commuting y self-employment in France: gender differences]," MPRA Paper 106555, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Franz Neuberger & Tobias Rüttenauer & Martin Bujard, 2022. "Where does public childcare boost female labor force participation? Exploring geographical heterogeneity across Germany 2007–2017," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 46(24), pages 693-722.
    9. Audinga Baltrunaite & Egle Karmaziene, 2020. "Trainspotting: Board Appointments in Private Firms," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1278, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    10. Melina Stein & Luca Nitschke & Laura Trost & Ansgar Dirschauer & Jutta Deffner, 2022. "Impacts of Commuting Practices on Social Sustainability and Sustainable Mobility," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(8), pages 1-18, April.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Giménez-Nadal, José Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Velilla, Jorge, 2021. "Two-way commuting: Asymmetries from time use surveys," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 95(C).
    2. Borghorst, Malte & Mulalic, Ismir & van Ommeren, Jos, 2021. "Commuting, Children and the Gender Wage Gap," Working Papers 15-2021, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    3. Meekes, Jordy & Hassink, Wolter, 2020. "Fired and Pregnant: Gender Differences in Job Flexibility Outcomes after Job Loss," IZA Discussion Papers 13779, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Meekes, Jordy & Hassink, Wolter H.J., 2022. "Gender differences in job flexibility: Commutes and working hours after job loss," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    5. Barbara Boelmann & Anna Raute & Uta Schönberg, 2020. "Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply," RF Berlin - CReAM Discussion Paper Series 2020, Rockwool Foundation Berlin (RF Berlin) - Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM).
    6. Lorenz, Olga & Goerke, Laszlo, 2015. "Commuting and Sickness Absence," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113173, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Lídia Farré & Cristina Felfe & Libertad González & Patrick Schneider, 2022. "Changing Gender Norms across Generations: Evidence from a Paternity Leave Reform," Working Papers 1310, Barcelona School of Economics.
    8. Simon Rabaté & Sara Rellstab, 2022. "What Determines the Child Penalty in the Netherlands? The Role of Policy and Norms," De Economist, Springer, vol. 170(2), pages 195-229, May.
    9. Menzel, Andreas & Woodruff, Christopher, 2021. "Gender wage gaps and worker mobility: Evidence from the garment sector in Bangladesh," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    10. Rosa Sanchis-Guarner, 2012. "Driving Up Wages: The Effects of Road Construction in Great Britain," SERC Discussion Papers 0120, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Marcén, Miriam & Morales, Marina, 2021. "Culture and the cross-country differences in the gender commuting gap," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    12. Giménez-Nadal, José Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Velilla, Jorge, 2022. "Trends in commuting time of European workers: A cross-country analysis," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 327-342.
    13. Roth, Anja, 2019. "How the provision of childcare affects attitudes towards maternal employment," Working papers 2019/22, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    14. Albanesi, Stefania & Olivetti, Claudia & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2022. "Families, labor markets and policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 118038, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    15. Gordon B Dahl & Christina Felfe & Paul Frijters & Helmut Rainer, 2022. "Caught between Cultures: Unintended Consequences of Improving Opportunity for Immigrant Girls [Economics and Identity]," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 89(5), pages 2491-2528.
    16. Friedman-Sokuler, Naomi & Senik, Claudia, 2020. "From Pink-Collar to Lab Coat: Cultural Persistence and Diffusion of Socialist Gender Norms," IZA Discussion Papers 13385, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Alessandra Casarico & Salvatore Lattanzio, 2023. "Behind the child penalty: understanding what contributes to the labour market costs of motherhood," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 36(3), pages 1489-1511, July.
    18. Céline Piton, 2022. "The labour market performance of vulnerable groups: towards a better understanding of the main driving forces," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/352519, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    19. Petrongolo, Barbara & Ronchi, Maddalena, 2020. "Gender gaps and the structure of local labor markets," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    20. Carta, Francesca & De Philippis, Marta, 2018. "You've come a long way, baby. Husbands' commuting time and family labour supply," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 25-37.

    More about this item


    Commuting time; labor supply; gender roles; family responsibilities; city shape;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:doc2020-03. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: the person in charge (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.