Wasteful Commuting: A Re-examination

Maureen Cropper and Patrice Gordon, Journal of Urban Economics 29(1), 2-13, January .


In a provocative article, Hamilton [l] demonstrates that the simple
monocentric model of urban location, modified to allow for decentralized
employment, does a poor job of predicting actual commuting distances in
major U.S. cities. According to the monocentric model, households locate
to maximize the utility received from housing and all other goods
(= income - commuting costs - housing costs). If households are otherwise
indifferent among housing locations, and if there is one worker per
household, utility-maximizing location choices minimize aggregate commuting
distances, given the location of houses and jobs. The fact that
average actual commutes are about 8 times the average minimum commute
casts doubt on the validity of the monocentric model.

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