Is There a Quiet Revolution in Womens Travel? Revisiting the Gender Gap in Commuting

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by Randall Crane

Gender is both an archetypal and adaptive dimension of the urban condition and, thus, remains a key moving target for planning practitioners and scholars alike. This is especially true of women's growing, if not revolutionary, involvement in the economy. A familiar exception is the trip linking work and home, which has been consistently and persistently shorter for women than men. That said, new reports suggest that the gender gap in commuting time and distance may have quietly vanished in some areas. To explore this possibility, I use panel data from the American Housing Survey to better measure and explain commute trends for the entire United States from 1985 through 2005. They overwhelmingly indicate that differences stubbornly endure, with men's and women's commuting distances converging only slowly and commuting times diverging. My results also show that commuting times are converging for all races, especially for women, and women's trips to work by transit are dwindling rapidly. Thus sex continues to play an important role explaining travel, housing, and labor market dynamics, with major implications for planning practice.

Randall Crane (crane@ucla.edu) is a professor of urban planning at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, where he teaches courses on urban development and the built environment. His PhD is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

July 07, 2008