Long-Distance Commuting over the Life Course and Its Link to Partnership Histories: A French-German Comparison

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

Over their careers, many workers resort to various forms of spatial mobility. While internal migration is stagnating or decreasing, there is an increase in long-distance commuting. In a life course approach, spatial mobility and partnership are construed as interrelated life trajectories. On the one hand, commuting can reduce partnership stability because of commuting stress. On the other hand, the existence of an employed partner can increase the likelihood of commuting to combine two workplaces. National contexts are expected to influence how both life trajectories interact through cultural and structural institutions. However, longitudinal and cross-national evidence is largely missing on the links between partnership and work-related spatial mobility. Using retrospective data from France and Germany, this paper examines cross-national differences in how partnership and long-distance commuting histories intersect. The data derive from the second wave of the 'Job Mobilities and Family Lives in Europe' survey. They include a representative sample of the population in France and Germany aged 40 to 57 and an oversample of highly mobile workers (N=847). We apply techniques of sequence analysis to grasp mobility and partnership experiences holistically as individual histories. Based on whole trajectories we additionally develop indicators that summarise key features of partnership histories. Results show that, among women in Germany, long-term experiences of daily long-distance commuting are associated with a higher number of partners and more complex partnership trajectories. Among women in France, in contrast, commuting is associated with a lower number of partners and a higher number of years without a partner. Among men, the overall relationship between commuting and partnership histories is rather weak in both countries. The findings are discussed in consideration of cross-national differences in social norms, family policies and labour market structure.

Presented in Session 84: Partnership Dynamics across the Lifecourse