The Commuting Paradox

According to a paper by the Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, a person with a one-hour car commute must earn 40 percent more money to have a sense of well-being equal to someone who walks (or rides their bike) to work. Fey and Stutzer say that people underestimate the down side of a long commute when choosing a home, and that psychologically, a long commute often negates the benefits gained by living in the suburbs.

From the paper Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox:

“People spend a lot of time commuting and often find it a burden. According to economics, the burden of commuting is chosen when compensated either on the labor or on the housing market so that individual’s utility is equalized. However, in a direct test of this strong notion of equilibrium, we find that people with longer commuting time report systematically lower subjective well-being. Additional empirical analyses do not find institutional explanations of the empirical results that commuters systematically incur losses. We discuss several possibilities of an extended model of human behavior able to explain this “commuting paradox”.”