Household structure and gender differences in travel time: spouse/partner presence, parenthood, and breadwinner status

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96 Scopus citations


Despite having more similar roles at work and home than ever before, US men and women continue to exhibit different travel behavior. An open question is whether the remaining gender differences in travel differ by traditional and emergent aspects of household structure such as spouse/partner presence, parenthood, and breadwinner status. Using data from the 2003–2010 American Time Use Survey, this study offers a unique, empirical travel time analysis of metropolitan workers stratified by household structure. Results show that gender differences in travel time respond to multiple aspects of household structure in complex and interactive ways. Gender difference in work travel time is only observable when spouse/partner presence and parenthood interact, i.e., in couple households with children. Gender difference in household support travel reacts to parenthood but not spouse/partner presence. Gender difference in travel time between employed females and employed males in single-breadwinner couples is no different from gender difference in double-breadwinner couples. The results call for policy initiatives and research inquiries that pay greater attention to the large gender disparities in work travel in couple households with children and the large gender disparities in household support travel in all households with children including single-parent households. Although incapable of ruling out the influences of internalized gender differences (e.g., preference theory) and gendered structural contexts (e.g., labor market segmentation), the findings provide clear evidence that traditional gender roles and relations remain operative in contemporary households in the US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-291
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Breadwinner
  • Family
  • Gender
  • Household structure
  • Marriage
  • Parenthood
  • Travel behavior


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