Publication Detail

Which Came First, the Telecommuting or the Residential Relocation? An Empirical Analysis of Causality



Suggested Citation:
Ory, David T. and Patricia L. Mokhtarian (2006) Which Came First, the Telecommuting or the Residential Relocation? An Empirical Analysis of Causality. Urban Geography 27 (7), 590 - 609

Researchers have questioned whether the ability to telecommute is encouraging workers to relocate to more desirable residences farther from work, and in doing so, exacerbate sprawl and increase their net vehicle-miles traveled. The research presented here directly asks, is telecommuting a “friend or foe” of travel-reducing policies? Given that telecommuters tend to have longer commutes than non-telecommuters, is the ability to telecommute prompting workers to move farther away from work? Or rather, does the ability to telecommute allow those who for other reasons have already chosen, or would in any case choose, to live in more distant locations to commute less frequently? These questions are addressed using data collected from more than 200 State of California workers, including current, former, and non-telecommuters. The survey inquired retrospectively about their residential relocations, as well as their telecommuting engagements, over a 10-year period. The results indicate that, as expected, residential moves that are temporally associated with telecommuting episodes tend to increase commute time and length compared to other moves—although the differences are not statistically significant. Analyzing the temporal order of telecommuting engagement and residential relocation, the data show that those who are telecommuting and then move actually tend to relocate closer to their workplace, whereas those who begin telecommuting following a residential relocation tended to have moved much farther from their workplace. Analysis of the stated importance of telecommuting to specific residential relocations did not show a convincing effect toward more distant moves. Thus, the evidence more strongly supports the positive view of telecommuting, that it is ameliorating the negative transportation impacts of moves that occur for other reasons.

Keywords: commuting, residential location, retrospective survey, telecommuting, teleworking, work at home