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Employment deconcentration and spatial dispersion in metropolitan areas: Consequences for commuting patterns


There is interest in understanding which characteristics of metropolitan areas impact the length of time or distance residents spend commuting. We utilize two measures recently introduced to the urban literature capturing distinct dimensions of employment decentralization –the level of employment deconcentration and employment spatial dispersion in metropolitan areas – to assess how they are related to commuting patterns across metropolitan areas. These two measures of urban/metropolitan spatial structure avoid challenges in identifying “job centers” and allow for a more systematic investigation of how employment decentralization affects commuting patterns. Furthermore, we detect key differences for the implications of these measures for commuting across 329 US metropolitan regions based on their population size. We find that greater employment deconcentration in very small MSAs is associated with longer commute times and distances, whereas greater employment deconcentration in large or very large MSAs is associated with shorter commutes. And whereas spatial dispersion is not related to commute times in very small MSAs, greater spatial dispersion is associated with longer commutes in very large MSAs. This study also shows that the spatial pattern of employment in regions, captured by these new measures, is associated with the proportion of very short and very long duration commutes.

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