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Driving my life away? Essays examining the impact of commuting on income and well-being -PhD thesis-


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Commuting is an important and increasing component of time use. In
1995/97, the average worker in Britain commuted for 48 minutes per day;
by 2012 this had increased to 56 minutes, c. 12% of a standard fulltime
working week (Department of Transport National Travel Survey (NTS),
2013). Since commuting is viewed as an economic bad, rational
individuals should only undertake longer commutes if they are
compensated for doing so. This compensation can be monetary (e.g. higher
pay) and non-monetary (e.g. better housing). Because of this
compensation, people with longer commutes should not report lower levels
of subjective well-being (SWB) - a proxy for utility - than people with
shorter commutes. The principle aim of this thesis is to examine
commuting behaviour against a number of different outcomes. Chapter 2
uses data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) to
investigate the causal relationship between commuting distance and pay.
Specifically, we focus on exogenous shocks to commuting, similar to the
papers by Mulalic et al (2010, 2013). We find evidence of a positive and
significant relationship between commuting distance and income,
suggesting that individuals receive financial compensation for longer
commutes. Chapter 3 considers commuting and social capital, specifically
in the presence of congestion charging. Using unique data, we analyse
the impact that the Western Extension Zone (WEZ) had on an individual's
stock of social capital. Following Putnam (2000), we proxy social
capital by the frequency of visiting friends and family. Using
difference-in-difference (D-i-D) techniques, we find that the WEZ did
lead to lower levels of social capital. Chapters 4 and 5 then look at
the relationship between commuting and well-being using data from the
British Household Panel Survey. In chapter 4 we show that there is an
insignificant relationship between commuting time and life satisfaction
for individuals, albeit there is a relationship between the General
Health Questionnaire (GHQ) score and commuting for women. In chapter 5,
we then consider the couple as the unit of analysis. Again we find no
evidence of a negative relationship between commuting time and SWB. This
is robust to including spousal commuting information. We conclude that
commuting further increases individuals' pay. However, we find no
evidence of a significant relationship between commuting and SWB, which
is a broader measure of individual utility. This may be due to commuting
being associated with lower levels of social capital, which cancels out
the effect of income on well-being.


Wages And Earnings, Well Being, Social Capital, and Commuting



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