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A household perspective on the commuting paradox: Longitudinal relationships between commuting time and subjective wellbeing for couples in China

Yinhua Tao, Maarten van Ham, Ana Petrović and Na Ta

Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 2023, vol. 170, issue C

Abstract: Research on the experienced utility of commuting time is dominated by an individualistic view of choice concerning the trade-offs between long commutes and job- or housing-related benefits. The widely discussed phenomenon of the commuting paradox shows that individuals systematically report worse subjective wellbeing as commuting time increases over time, indicating the incomplete trade-offs and net disutility for long commutes at the individual level. This paper takes a household perspective and conducts one of the first longitudinal studies on the gendered relationship between commuting time and subjective wellbeing in China. Drawing upon the China Health and Nutrition Survey between 2006 and 2015, we used seemingly unrelated regression models and fixed-effect models not only to compare the within-individual effect but also to investigate the spill-over effect of commuting time on life satisfaction between matched samples of husbands and wives. We additionally examined the role of preschool-aged children and co-residence with their grandparents in the gendered commuting-wellbeing relationship. The results supported the individual-level commuting paradox, considering that both partners had lower levels of life satisfaction with the increase of their own commuting time. Interestingly, husbands’ life satisfaction was more negatively affected by wives’ commuting time than vice versa, while wives’ commuting utility was more related to the great time pressure from childcare and the social support from extended family members. Our research findings have implications for urban planning and governance policies which aim at mitigating job-housing mismatch, delivering accessible childcare services and transforming gendered social norms.

Keywords: Travel behaviour; Well-being; Gender; Family; Causality; Developing countries (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2023.103640

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