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Preferences for commuting in sparsely populated areas: the case of Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9587-9000
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2010 (English)In: Journal of Transport and Land Use, ISSN 1938-7849, Vol. 2, no 3/4, 87-107 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In a time of decreased inclination to migrate and an increased place attachment, increasingcommuting can improve the functionality of local labor markets. In regional development policy in Sweden,facilitating increased commuting over larger geographical areas is therefore viewed as essential forenhancing the supply of competent labor in all parts of the country and decreasing spatial segmentation.Building on an analysis of data from a survey of Swedish residents’ commuting options and preferences,this paper focuses on commuting in a relatively sparsely populated and peripheral area in northern Sweden.Further, the question of whether increased commuting is socially sustainable from a commuter’sperspective is discussed. 􀄃e point of departure is that the individual and the individual’s context affectcommuting behavior through social norms, geographical structure and available infrastructure. Withrespect to travel patterns and mode choice, a gender perspective is included in the analyses. 􀄃e resultsshow that the geographic and socio-economic structure of the labor market place time restrictions onpeople’s commuting behavior and as a consequence people’s daily reach in sparsely populated areas isrestricted. Geographical structure, available infrastructure, and socio-economic factors (such as education,employment, and family situation) are also found to restrict women’s access to the local labormarket to a greater extent than men’s. Furthermore, the study shows that the inclination to commutedeclines rapidly when commuting times exceed 45 minutes, regardless of gender, transport mode, andsocio-economic factors. Considering distances and the provision of public transport in sparsely populatedareas, the car is valued as the most optimal mode of transport when commuting. If regional growthis to be promoted by facilitating commuting over longer distances, a higher level of car dependency mustbe accepted in sparsely populated areas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Minnesota, USA: Journal of Transport and Land Use , 2010. Vol. 2, no 3/4, 87-107 p.
Keyword [en]
Commuting; Travel time; Gender; Social sustainability; Regional development
National Category
Human Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-33744DOI: 10.5198/jtlu.v2i3.21OAI: diva2:317724
Available from: 2010-05-05 Created: 2010-05-05 Last updated: 2016-03-15Bibliographically approved
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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