The Impact of Family Formation on the Willingness to Commute and the Consequences for Employment Behaviour of Mothers in Germany

Thomas Skora, Federal Institute for Population Research Germany (BiB)

Previous studies suggest that women’s careers are negatively affected by child-related employment interruptions and subsequent mobility into mother-friendly working conditions. Hence, determinants of female employment patterns following child birth have been subject to a variety of studies. Yet, empirical insights regarding the relevance of commuting distance for the decision of mothers to return to work after childbirth are lacking. This paper examines i) the commuting distances and related adjustments of women and men around the transition to parenthood and ii) the impact of maternal pre-birth commuting distances on the duration of employment interruption as well as on the propensity to change the employer at re-entry. It is assumed that mothers with long commutes, in order to reduce their commuting distance, might be reluctant to return to their previous employer while the need to find a new appropriate job close to the place of residence might delay the re-entry into the labour market. These adjustments could be associated with occupational downward mobility, as changing the employer implies a loss of firm-specific human capital and a spatial restriction of job search activities to the local labour market. The empirical analysis uses data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) for the years 1997 to 2015. Results from fixed effects regressions show that women living in West Germany decrease their commuting distance substantially when entering parenthood, while this doesn’t apply for women in East Germany and for men in both regions. The reduction of commuting distance largely takes place after the child was born in the phase of mothers’ return to work. Results from subsequent survival analyses indicate that the duration of employment interruption is not affected by the pre-birth commuting behaviour. However, long commutes before the birth increase the risk of changing the employer when re-entering the labour market in West Germany.

Presented in Session 114: Households, Couples and Labor Market Choices