Are Long Commutes the Solution to Maintaining Family Ties and Spatial Integration? Demographic Evidence from a European Comparison between Barcelona and Marseille.

Juan A. Módenes, Dept. of Geography, UNIV. AUTÒN. DE BARCELONA
Paolo Chevalier, Centre d''Estudis Demogràfics

Low-income earners have a greater potential to be impacted negatively by professional and residential instabilities. Family and spatial integration appear to be one of the last bastions for their social inclusion. Along with the various structural changes, urban sprawl and improvement of speed potentials caused an increase in commuting time. As a result, 5% of the low-income workers in Marseille and Barcelona allocate more than two hours a day to their daily travel routine. These changes may have facilitated the practice of “spatial reversibility”, that is to say, to maintain spatial integration within family ties or social networks and, at the same time, commuting out of their life space every day. This paper analyzes the causality between family ties and the increased duration of the day-to-day commute. To address this, a one-week gathering of geolocated data via a mobile application will map the life space of 50 low-income workers. Then, an interview will facilitate the retrieval of retrospective data. An adaptation of the “Ageven” form was made for the purpose of studying family, residential, professional and mobility trajectories as well as the life space along different life cycles. Through a life course approach, it is possible to observe how daily mobility may change over time, the circumstances in which a long commuting occurs, its motives, and its impact on their daily life space. For this paper, a special interest has been given to family ties and their localization in order to witness the evolution of the interrelationship between commuting distance and family network location.

Several authors identify that family ties influencehome location in two ways: “the nearby presence of family members may makepeople reluctant to move away, and family members living elsewhere may inducepeople to move in their direction” (Mulder, Cooke, 2009, p. 300 ; Spilimbergo, Ubeda, 2004 ; Dawkins, 2006 ; Zorlu,2009). Nonetheless, many structural changes in Europe are beginning to stand inthe way of the European households who try to maintain their family ties,especially in the case of the low-income workers in Barcelona (Spain) andMarseille (France).

On one hand, the metropolizationof the European economy has progressively dispatched economic activities amongthe metropolitan area. Among various others, logistic centers in the metropolisesof Barcelona and Marseille, the sector which currently recruits the mostunqualified and unexperienced workers, are located in areas of isolation ( Cebollada, Miralles-Guasch,2008 ; Donzel, 2014 ). On the other hand,an increase of outsourcing tasks, a need for flexibility and a new form oflabor organization has been observed (Boltansky, Chiapello, 1999). Consequently, Castel observes a newsocial class, the “precariat”, which  refers to agroup of people who suffer from a lack of job security (Castel, 1995)

              Disturbances in the housing marketshould also be pointed out. For instance, a study from the urbanism agency ofMarseille metropolis (AGAM), shows that a low-income single-parent family canonly afford to live in Berre-l’Etang, a municipalityof the metropolis of Marseille (Alfree, Vidal, 2016).In return, some evidence shows that depending on one’s socioeconomic categoriesor place of residence, job offers are not always equally allocated throughoutthe area (Kain, 1968 ; Wenglenski, 2003).

Therefore, individuals tend tocontinue to maintain strong family ties. Spanish families have strong economicsupport and childcare is provided by the family to compensate a weaker publicwelfare (Esping-Andersen, 1990 ;Poggio, 2008 ; León, Migliavacca,2013). Observing the residential moves within the suburbs of Madrid, Lealpointed out a territorial consequence of this “familisticwelfare”. Progeny was looking forward to remaining in the same suburbs as hisparents when choosing a home (Leal, 2010). Nonetheless, increasing cuts inFrench welfare system may induce similar practices to the most fragilehouseholds. Up to now, for the low-income individuals, it is the availabilityof the access to social housing that determines the localization of the placeof residence (Dietrich-Ragon, 2013).

Nevertheless, some low-income workersdedicate two hours a day to commuting to maintain their family ties (Ravalet et al., 2015). In France and in Spain, accessibility to speed potentials, such as motorvehicles or fast public transport, allow people to increase the perimeter oftheir life space (Wiel, 2002 ;Dupuy, 2000 ; Orfeuil,2004 ; Eurostat, 2017). These changes may have facilitated the practice of“spatial reversibility”, that is to say, to maintain spatial integration withinfamily ties or social networks and, at the same time, commuting out of theirlife space every day (Vincent-Geslin, Ravalet, 2015).

Our research question is the following: is the desire tomaintain family ties and spatial integration the reason behind long commutes?

Our hypothesis is that due to the existence andbenefit of this “familistic welfare”, individuals wholive in Barcelona tend to maintain their family ties and spatial integration.In Marseille’s case, it is social housing policies that determine thelocalization of these individuals.

Through a life course approach, it ispossible to observe how daily mobility may change over time, the circumstancesin which a long commuting occurs, its motives, and its impact on their dailylife space. This can be witnessed when individuals become long commuters inorder to live closer to their family. Thisstudy is based on a sample of 50 individualswho live under the poverty threshold andtraveling to and from work more than two hours a day.

To begin, the web interface of Modalyzershows the modes of transport used, location and temporality of daily trips(Figure 1 left). Also, the totality of the waypoints are mapped to visualizethe spatial and temporal representation of the current living space ofindividuals (Figure 1 right). From here, with these results, thesemi-structured interviews may be adapted according to the observed life space.

Figure 1. Life space of a Spanish worker.

The interview has been divided into two parts. The first twenty minutesare dedicated to grasping the individuals’ subjective feelings about theirdaily commuting experiences and will provide reasons for its occurrence.Secondly, a one hour and ten minute interview will retrieve retrospective data.Following past surveys undertaken by INED in France, an adaptation of the “Ageven” form was made for the purpose of studying family,residential, professional and mobility trajectories as well as the life spacealong different life cycles (Courgeau, Lelièvre, 1990, 1996 ; Bonvalet, Lelièvre, 2012). Aspecial interest has been given to family ties and their localization.

Presented in Session 1234: Posters