Commute Time and Social Capital in the U.S.


      The suggested declining trend in social capital among Americans could be due, in part, to long commute times associated with urban sprawl.


      In 2007, the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) was used to determine the association between commute time and socially-oriented trips, a proxy measure of social capital, while controlling for individual-level and regional-level characteristics. Socially-oriented trips were those taken to: attend school/religious activities; attend social/recreational activities; visit friends/relatives; go out for entertainment; attend funerals/weddings/social events; exercise/play sports; attend to family/personal obligations; participate in organizational meetings; or transport someone. Odds ratios and 95% CIs were calculated for the association between commute time and socially-oriented trips for full-time working adults (N=54,747).


      Higher commute time (>20 minutes) was significantly associated with no socially-oriented trips (adjusted OR=1.17, 95% CI=1.09–1.25). The strongest association was among 90+ minute commuters (adjusted OR=1.50, 95% CI=1.16–1.94).


      This study suggests that individuals with longer commutes have less access to social capital, as indicated by fewer socially-oriented trips.
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