Does Commuting Hinder Civic Engagement? A Panel Analysis of Germany

Heiko RĂ¼ger , Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Thomas Skora, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)

While internal migration is stagnating or decreasing in Germany and other European countries, there is an increase in alternative forms of regional mobility such as daily and weekly commuting. Although the relationship between commuting and civic engagement has repeatedly been regarded as relevant in the literature, there has been little research on it to date and in particular longitudinal studies are lacking. We expect a negative effect on civic engagement, since commuting is often time-consuming and stressful and can entail periodic absence from the main residence. We apply fixed effects panel regressions to longitudinal data for the years 1997-2017 from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) which is representative of private households in Germany (N=197,795 observations from 39,899 individuals). Using the same data and event history analysis we also examine whether there are indications of reverse causality. Overall, the results show that commuting is associated with reduced civic engagement. Differentiated by the type of engagement, it can be seen that the effects are stronger for volunteer work than for political participation. The longer the daily commute, the larger the negative effect, but we find the largest negative effect for weekly commuting. We also find evidence for the other causal direction: The lower (higher) the participation in volunteer work, the higher (lower) the probability of starting daily long distance and weekend commuting.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy