Harmful effects of female commuting on partnership stability: selection or causation?

Stefanie A. Kley, Universit├Ąt Hamburg
Michael Feldhaus, University of Bremen

Considerable commutes were found to undermine well-being and overall life-satisfaction in various European countries. Furthermore, commuting is perceived to have negative outcomes on family live. Recently, harmful effects on partnerships and families were found with German data, but exclusively if women commute. These findings support the idea that harmful effects of spatial flexibility on partnerships and families seem to be channelled through the "triple burden" faced by working women with long commutes and household responsibilities. But so far there are very few studies in this field. Those findings might be spurious due to biased samples, confounding of predictors and/or small numbers of cases. The proposed contribution has therefore two goals: Firstly, to replicate the findings about the harmful effect of female long-distance commuting on partnership stability; secondly, to investigate in more detail whether the commuting-effect might be spurious. Making use of data from the first three waves of the German Family Panel pairfam partnerships' stability of female anchor persons is analysed. Discrete time event history models are applied to replicate the findings about the harmful effects of female long-distance commuting on partnership stability. Such effect is found for couples living in big cities and in rural areas. A sub-sample is created to investigate whether this effect might be spurious, making use of propensity score matching and estimating the average treatment effect on the treated (ATT). This analysis suggests that for the subgroup of couples living in big cities and in rural areas, female commuting indeed increases the risk of separation significantly. Finally, sensitivity analysis proofs the robustness of this effect. We conclude that partnerships of female commuters are not at risk of breakup because of the characteristics of those women but because of the spreading of stressful daily practices into other areas of life.

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Presented in Poster Session 2