Well knock me down with a Boris Bike! Who’d a thought it, eh?
It’s not that commuting makes you rich, of course, it’s just that high paying jobs tend to be clustered in city centres where only the extremely wealthy can afford a family sized house. Everyone else moves out after their brief student-and-first-job experiment with urban living. They then commute back into the cities where their high-paying jobs are located. As you might expect, the effects of the commuting premium are most pronounced in London.
Median hourly earnings by travel time, London and Rest of UK, October-December 2009
But the story that is dying to be told here, and I’m sure the data must be there but the ONS hasn’t published it yet, is how far men and women commute and how this changes with age.
We know that the gender pay gap increases with age and with the number of children people have. A reasonable hypothesis might therefore be that older women and women with more children commute shorter distances. Women, for the most part, still take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities and therefore need to be nearer home. The more children a woman has, the longer she will be prevented from commuting over long distances.
Baroness Prosser’s 2006 report on women and work found that, on average, women had shorter journeys to work than men:
Women, particularly women with children, tend to have shorter commuting times than men which limits the range of jobs available to them. This potentially leads to the crowding of women into those jobs available locally, and in either case, depresses wages.
There is a London factor:
The difference between the commuting time for men and women is largest in London.
And a motherhood factor:
On average, women who have children have a quicker journey to work than women without children. The travel-to-work time of women with more than two children is half that of their male counterparts.
So how far does commuting contribute to the gender pay gap? If anyone has any data on commuting distances by age, gender and family size, I’d be interested to see it. My guess, though, is that if you were to plot the differences between commuting times for men and women by age, the pattern would look something like the black line on this graph.