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Measuring Commuting in the American Time Use Survey


  • Kimbrough, Gray

    () (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics)


The journey between work and home plays an important role in daily time use, acting as both a fixed time cost of labor force participation and as a constraint on time for other activities. Data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) offer the opportunity to examine commuting behavior and its relationship to demographics, labor market characteristics, and the amount of time spent on other activities. Previous analyses have been complicated by the difficulties of obtaining commuting time measures from the ATUS. Travel information can be difficult to interpret in the ATUS, and many commuting trips are likely misclassified using stock measures of work-related travel. To address this shortcoming, I review the strategies of previous researchers to reclassify travel. After surveying possible methodologies, I focus on applying to the ATUS a methodology applied to the National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS). Detailed time information in the NHTS allows me to compare both aggregate commuting measures and the timing of commuting in the two surveys. I further extend the analysis to compare to journey-to-work information in another commonly used dataset, the American Community Survey. These comparisons and the methodology provided serve to enable and validate further analysis of commuting behavior using the ATUS, leveraging the advantages of this dataset.

Suggested Citation

  • Kimbrough, Gray, 2015. "Measuring Commuting in the American Time Use Survey," UNCG Economics Working Papers 15-2, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 01 May 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:uncgec:2015_002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen DeLoach & Thomas Tiemann, 2012. "Not driving alone? American commuting in the twenty-first century," Transportation, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 521-537, May.
    2. Karen S. Hamrick & David Hopkins, 2012. "The time cost of access to food – Distance to the grocery store as measured in minutes," electronic International Journal of Time Use Research, Research Institute on Professions (Forschungsinstitut Freie Berufe (FFB)) and The International Association for Time Use Research (IATUR), vol. 9(1), pages 28-58, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jotrge:v:66:y:2018:i:c:p:19-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Kimbrough, Gray, 2016. "What Drives Gender Differences in Commuting Behavior: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey," UNCG Economics Working Papers 16-4, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 10 Jun 2016.
    3. Gray Kimbrough, 2016. "What Drives Gender Differences in Commuting? Evidence from the American Time Use Survey," 2016 Papers pki275, Job Market Papers.

    More about this item


    commuting; time use; travel behavior; time-use data; travel classification; American Time Use Survey;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • 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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