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The Office for National Statistics tells us that men are the majority of long distance commuters and that women tend to have shorter commutes than men. This is said to be about childcare and thus a contributor to the gender pay gap. Well, yes, maybe – it’s an interesting contention at least – but isn’t really what is happening. Rather, men and women are making slightly different decisions about work and children and it’s that which causes both the difference in commutes and also the wage gap. You might want to describe this as a subtlety of no importance but you’d be wrong to do so. For the difference makes a, umm, difference to what we might do about anything.

If it’s the choices causing both then both will be solved by changing the choices. If it’s child care, or commuting, causing the pay gap, then changing child care or commuting will change the pay gap. As ever, the cause will determine what should or even can be done about the perceived problem:

A disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities results in women working closer to the home, potentially contributing to the gender pay gap, new data has revealed.

Women in every region of the UK apart from London are more likely than men to live within a 15-minute commute to their place of work, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The pattern is reversed for longer commutes, adding to a so-called gender commuting gap. Some 61% of commuters who travel for more than an hour are men, the data shows. In the east of England men represent more than three-quarters of those who spend more than an hour travelling.

The constraint on commuting longer distances is thought by economists to be one of multiple contributing factors to the gender pay gap, as women are limited in their choice of work, even if it pays more.

The full statistics are here from the ONS.

Men undertake almost two-thirds of commutes lasting more than an hour, new analysis shows.

It also reveals that women tend to undertake shorter journeys to work, accounting for more than half (55%) of commutes lasting 15 minutes or less.

The facts are fine. It’s how we read them and then what we do about it that matters.

So, we could say, well, women do more child care, this is because child care isn’t free nor convenient, this limits commuting possibilities and thus women’s pay – the gender pay gap! Spend more on child care and the pay gap will disappear.

Sure, that’s possible but that’s not the way we’d read it around here. Instead, male and female responses – on average, of course – to the arrival of children differ. It’s not that women are oppressed by the patriarchy into the majority of child care, it’s a normal response from a sexually dimorphic mammalian species. It is this which leads to the pay gap itself, the commute and child care things being corollaries of that initial preference.

If this is true – note the if – then what’s the public policy response? Nothing, obviously. For the correct and righteous world is the outcome of the freely made choices of us the peeps. If this is how we wish to live then that’s that. If it is true that there’s a sexual division of labour over children then, well, there’s a sexual division of labour over children. Nothing need be done about it.

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I wonder by how much the wage gap narrows then when the commuting hours are included.


Women do most of the child care, inside and outside the home. They have the greatest influence on shaping those young brains. Thus, obviously, prima facie, who should we blame when the boys turn out to be misogynistic rapists? Men, of course.


Or in my family a nurse works 12 hour shifts so basing location on their commute makes more sense, as does choosing childcare on my route to/from work so it’s back to the economic unit in this case being the family so there is no gender pay gap as individuals aren’t the point


The commutting differential does explain a little of the wage gap. The average man’s working day, including commuting, is longer than the average woman’s by *more than* the official statistics indicate. He has taken the choice to suffer for more hours per day to earn more, while she has chosen to take a lower salary in order to spend less time commuting. [That is assuming that all employers are offering precisely equal wages/salaries to all genders for identical jobs at the same location but that you have to pay more if the effective day is longer e.g. to get someone… Read more »