The Contrasting Perceptions of Long-Distance Commuting Mothers: The Importance of the Family Context

Heiko Rüger, Federal Institute for Population Research
Gil Viry, University of Edinburgh

This paper examines how long-distance commuting mothers perceive their work-related travel. Using data from the ‘Job Mobilities and Family Lives in Europe’ survey and a pooled sample of long-distance commuting mothers living with partner and children aged 0-17 years, the analysis tests whether mothers’ long-distance commuting perception varies with travel and work situation (e.g. duration of mobility, flexible hours), financial and household situation, and gender-role beliefs. Results show that mothers are more likely to perceive their long commutes negatively and as a burden than men and women without children. However, this perception strongly varies among long-distance commuting mothers, with a majority of them seeing their long commutes in a neutral or positive way. Based on cluster analysis and multiple correspondence analysis, results show that mobile mothers are more likely to perceive their long commutes positively when they have older children, flexible working hours and career-oriented values. Conversely, a negative mobility perception is associated with inflexible working hours, traditional gender roles attitudes and unequal division of housework. The country of origin has also a very strong effect on how mothers perceive their work-related travel. Mothers living in Switzerland, Germany tend to perceive their long commutes positively, whereas those living in Spain perceive them negatively, with women living in Belgium, France and Poland lying in between. Interestingly, the level of educational and financial resources available to mothers poorly explains mothers’ mobility perception. Overall, this contribution will emphasise the importance of making everyday spatial mobility practices more central to our understanding of gender inequalities, work-family balance and family life.

Presented in Poster Session 2