Mothers and Low-Wage Workers Suffer the Most From Long Commutes - Pacific Standard

Mothers and Low-Wage Workers Suffer the Most From Long Commutes

Lessons from a new report on the work weeks of America's 30 largest cities.
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New York City Subway. (Photo: Kyrre Gjerstad/Flickr)

New York City Subway. (Photo: Kyrre Gjerstad/Flickr)

New Yorkers are atwitter: The city's comptroller released a report yesterday saying New York City has the longest average work commutes of any major American city, to which many city-dwellers likely responded, "Glad you finally noticed."

Although the numbers in the comptroller's report may be specific to New York, the overall lessons apply to many American cities.

New Yorkers' long commute times and work hours mean they spend less time with their families and other pursuits, the report notes. That's true for anyone, of course. In addition, lots of studies have found long commutes to be associated with higher blood pressure, increased incidences of heart disease, and other ills. Basically, they're bad for people's health.

The New York report found those who suffered most from long commutes were lower-wage workers, who can't afford to live in the city center where jobs are densest.

The New York report found those who suffered most from long commutes were lower-wage workers, who can't afford to live in the city center where jobs are densest. All across the United States, lower-wage workers often live far away from their jobs. The excess time these folks spend commuting lowers their pay, as a function of their hours, even more.

One perhaps surprising population that suffers from long commutes: mothers who are still taking care of their kids. Moms with children younger than 17 were the least likely to work in New York than in any of the 30 largest American cities the comptroller's office analyzed. Recent research found that the longer a city's average commute time is, the less likely married women living in the city are to work. Long commute times could be a barrier for mothers who would want to work otherwise.

Solutions for New York and elsewhere could include allowing more workers to telecommute. Cities could also use this information to develop their public transportation systems to better serve those who need it most.

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