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Commuting behaviour in sparsely populated areas: evidence from northern Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2008 (English)In: Journal of Transport Geography, ISSN 0966-6923, Vol. 16, no 1, 14-27 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

From a Swedish regional development policy perspective, increased long-distance commuting is viewed as a means for creating larger local labour markets and thus stimulating regional economic growth. One of the prerequisites for such a development is that individuals are willing to commute longer distances. In the context of a relatively peripheral and sparsely populated area in northern Sweden, this paper aims to study commuting behaviour and factors influencing individuals’ propensities to commute longer distances. Using a longitudinal set of geo-referenced data, individuals’ commuting propensities were estimated in a binary logistic regression, and significant effects were found for a range of socio-economic and demographic factors. The results also show that the local labour market’s geographical structure is important. Overall, most individuals commute within their locality of residence and women commute shorter distances than men do – a pattern that has been relatively stable since the beginning of the 1990s. This article attempts to outline causes and effects of this commuting behaviour, which are important to understand in the development of regional development policies aimed at increasing geographical labour mobility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier , 2008. Vol. 16, no 1, 14-27 p.
Keyword [en]
Commuting, Gender, Local labour markets, Sparsely populated, Sweden
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-7410DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2007.04.004OAI: diva2:147081
Available from: 2008-01-09 Created: 2008-01-09 Last updated: 2013-08-16
In thesis
1. On the road: Social aspects of commuting long distances to work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the road: Social aspects of commuting long distances to work
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
På väg : Sociala aspekter av långväga pendling
Abstract [en]

With its point of departure of increasing numbers of people being engaged in commuting, the aim of this thesis is to reveal prerequisites for and consequences of long-distance commuting in Sweden for the individual and his or her partner. Special attention has been given to prerequisites for long-distance commuting in sparsely populated areas, and to social consequences related to long-distance commuting in terms of gender differences in commuting patterns, earnings and separation. The thesis is based on four empirical studies, presented in different papers. Two studies draw on individual longitudinal register data on all Swedish long-distance commuters living with a partner. The other two focus on commuting behaviour in sparsely populated areas, one based on individual register data and the other on a survey.

Long-distance commuting (>30 kilometres) has become an increasingly common mobility strategy among Swedish workers and their households. Results from the thesis show that 11 percent of Swedish workers are long-distance commuters and about half of them live in a relationship. Among these couples many are families with children, indicating the importance of social ties in households’ decisions on where to work and live. Most long-distance commuters are men, and it is also likely that long-distance commuters have a high education level and are employed in the private sector. For the majority, long-distance commuting gives higher earnings; however, men benefit economically more than women do. As long-distance commuting reduces available family time, the non-commuting spouse often takes on a larger share of household commitments. The thesis shows that men’s long-distance commuting may therefore serve to reproduce and reinforce traditional gender roles on the labour market and within households. On the other hand, women’s long-distance commuting can lead to more equalitarian relationships on the labour market and within households. For the majority of couples it seems as if long-distance commuting becomes more than a temporary mobility strategy, while for some couples it does not work out very well. Separation rates are found to be higher among long-distance commuters compared to other couples; especially the first years of commuting seem to be the most challenging. It is suggested that coping strategies are important to make the consequences of long-distance commuting easier to handle and adjust to in the daily life puzzle. For those unable to handle these consequences, long-distance commuting is not a sustainable mobility strategy and can even end a relationship.

The extent of long-distance commuting is low in sparsely populated areas, and those who do long-distance commute are mainly men. Most people work and live within the same locality and do not accept longer commuting times than do those in densely populated areas. In this thesis it is argued that facilitating car commuting in the more sparsely populated areas of Sweden can be more economically and socially sustainable, for the individual commuters as well as for society, than encouraging commuting by public transportation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, 2011. 55 p.
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2011:2
Long-distance commuting, social aspects, households, gender differences, sparsely populated areas, longitudinal study, register data, Sweden
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43674 (URN)978-91-978344-6-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-05-27, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal B, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2011-05-06 Created: 2011-05-05 Last updated: 2011-05-30Bibliographically approved

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Sandow, Erika
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