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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Is There a Quiet Revolution in Women's Travel? Revisiting the Gender Gap in Commuting


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 – the commute – 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 U.S. 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; women’s job access remains poorer than men’s, 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.

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