Stress that Doesn't Pay Off: The Commuting Paradox

42 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2004

See all articles by Alois Stutzer

Alois Stutzer

University of Basel; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA; University of Basel

Date Written: September 2004


People spend a lot of time commuting and often find it a burden. According to economics, the burden of commuting is chosen when compensated either on the labor or on the housing market so that individuals' utility is equalized. However, in a direct test of this strong notion of equilibrium, we find that people with longer commuting time report systematically lower subjective well-being. Additional empirical analyses do not find institutional explanations of the empirical results that commuters systematically incur losses. We discuss several possibilities of an extended model of human behavior able to explain this 'commuting paradox'.

Keywords: location theory, commuting, compensating variation, subjective well-being

JEL Classification: D12, D61, R41

Suggested Citation

Stutzer, Alois and Frey, Bruno S., Stress that Doesn't Pay Off: The Commuting Paradox (September 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Alois Stutzer (Contact Author)

University of Basel ( email )

Faculty of Business and Economics
Peter Merian-Weg 6
4002 Basel
0041 61 207 3361 (Phone)


IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA ( email )

Südstrasse 11
Zurich, CH 8008
+41 44 380 00 78 (Phone)

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4002

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