Addressing Commuting as a Public Health Issue: Strategies Should Differ by Rurality

Publication Date: July 31st, 2018
Publication Type(s): Policy Brief
Topic(s): , , ,
Author(s): Henning-Smith C, Kozhimannil K, Evenson A

Car commuting is a known risk factor for poor health, by contributing to sedentary behavior and air pollution; prevention efforts to reduce car commuting—especially long, solo commutes—are important to improving public health. This brief estimates the rate of solo car commuting and long (>30 minutes) solo car commutes by rurality and urban adjacency, and identifies differences in socio-demographic factors that relate to commuting behavior by geographic location.

Key Findings:

  • More than three-quarters of all US workers drive alone to work, regardless of geographic location. Of those, nearly one-quarter or more drive for more than 30 minutes each way, with rates of long, solo car commutes highest in
    metropolitan counties (35%; p<0.001).
  • Counties with higher educational attainment have fewer long, solo commutes.
  • Socio-demographic factors correlated with long, solo commutes differ by rurality. For example, having a higher unemployment rate is associated with more long, solo commutes in metropolitan and urban-adjacent counties, but not in smaller or more remote counties. Also, having more older adults living in the county is associated with more long, solo commutes in non-adjacent micropolitan counties and fewer long, solo commutes in urban-adjacent non-core counties.

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