As the U.S. unemployment rate edges lower, it’s taking American’s longer to get to work.
Since 2009, commute times nationwide have been on the rise. Some of this increase is due to more people commuting, but also some may be due to a shift in where people live.
Between 2006 and 2014 the percentage of Americans renting has jumped 5 percentage points as a result of switching from homeownership to renting. As such, we wanted to explore whether the big shift towards renting over the past 10 years has led to shifts in commuting.
We found renters are far more likely to live closer to work, take public transportation and have shorter commute times than their home-owning counterparts. In fact, renters have shorter commutes in 43 of 50 major metros, spending an average of one-and-a-half minutes less a day commuting than homeowners in those cities. While this may seem small, it adds up to more than 116 million workdays lost nationally or a full 8-hour workday, 8.7 hours, that the average renter saves in annual time commuting compared to an average homeowner.
The analysis of commuting habits found:
- Commute times in the 50 biggest U.S. metro areas have risen steadily, jumping to an average of 27.2 minutes in 2014 from 26.4 minutes in 2009.
- Americans ranked short commute times to work or proximity to public transportation second only to crime rate when it came to determining where to rent or buy a home.
- Even so, only 15.9% of Americans said short commutes or proximity to public transportation were among their top criteria in picking where to live.
- Working millennials who are renters valued short commute times or proximity to public transportation more so than low crime rates.
Who’s Winning The Commute-Time Race?
In 43 of the 50 major metros studied, renters had shorter commute times than homeowners, though commute times for both groups have been rising annually since 2009. What happened? The 2008 financial crisis caused a sharp spike in unemployment, which explains the sudden dip in commute times from 2008 to 2009.
How Important is Living Close to Work?
With commute times getting longer each year, it’s no surprise that most people would like to live closer to work. When asked about their neighborhood preferences, 15.9% of working Americans picked either a “short commute to work” or “nearby public transportation” as the most important quality for their next neighborhood they would call home.