Reassessing the commuting penalty for immigrants: new evidence from Spain

Casado-Díaz, J. M., Simón-Albert, R., & Simón, H. (2021). Reassessing the commuting penalty for immigrants: new evidence from Spain. Transportation, 1-34.


This article examines the differences in commuting length between native and immigrant employees in Spain, a relevant issue since immigrants' longer commuting times may, among other factors, reflect an imperfect spatial matching of their labour supply and demand with negative implications for their relative labour outcomes and their individual well-being. The research differentiates immigrants according to their origin and is based on a rich, nationally representative database. A novel contribution of the research is the use of decomposition econometric techniques that allow quantifying the joint and individual influence of a wide range of explanatory factors. The evidence obtained shows that, although a relevant part of the explanation of the greater commuting observed for immigrants is related to observed elements such as a different use of modes of transport, they make overall significantly longer journeys when comparing with observationally similar natives. This commuting penalty occurs yet only in the case of immigrants from emerging countries as it does not exist for those from advanced economies. Although the penalty is overall rather similar along several sociodemographic and occupational lines, it is much more pronounced for individuals living in large municipalities, which implies that previous analyses focusing on specific densely populated territories could not be nationally representative. To conclude, we offer additional novel evidence about the potential explanations of the commuting penalty of immigrants showing that it does not seem to derive from a hypothetically greater tolerance to commuting.

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