Gender roles and spatial entrapment

Date of Completion

January 2008






Women, especially married women, have shorter commuting times than men. The spatial entrapment hypothesis points towards these shorter commutes as an indication that married women's traditional gender roles in the family are inhibiting their job search range and therefore the jobs from which they have to choose. This often results in lower-paying, less-rewarding employment for women, thereby perpetuating the gender differential in labor market participation, earnings and spatial entrapment. This research utilizes a sample of non-Hispanic whites in a commuting time model in an attempt to better test the effect of gender roles in women's spatial entrapment. Data obtained from the 5% sample of the Public Use Microdata Sample of the 2000 U.S. Census (Ruggles et al., 2008) were used in a spatial fixed effects framework. The research presented makes several advancements over previous spatial entrapment studies. First, same-sex partners are used as a control group to better isolate and measure the effect of gender roles on women's spatial entrapment. Because same-sex partners have a more balanced division of labor in the home (Kurdek, 2007), they are used as a baseline to compare against other sample groups. Second, because commuting times are dependent upon geographical context, a national model of commuting is presented through the use of spatial fixed effects. This allows for generalizations to be made about women's spatial entrapment, as opposed to previous work that has focused on specific cities or areas. Lastly, in order to assess whether women's job opportunities are closer to their home and therefore could possibly be a significant determinant in their shorter commutes, a job accessibility index is introduced into the regression model. Results show that while job access is not a significant determinant in women's shorter commutes, gender roles are likely inhibiting married women's spatial range and therefore their labor market status. Additionally, this research has shown that geographical context makes a difference in predicting commutes and that generalizations cannot be made from studies on specific cities. ^