Commute Discrimination is a Thing
September 7, 2018 4:03 PM   Subscribe

 
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posted by aniola at 4:04 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


Yup. Back when I was job hunting all the time I would go to every interview saying I lived just a ten minute walk away. It was a lie, but it got me the job over other qualified applicants - and by the time they asked me to come in for something last minute, I'd have been on the job long enough to use having "recently moved to a new neighborhood" as an excuse.
posted by backlikeclap at 4:47 PM on September 7 [27 favorites]


While I'm sure this is indeed a thing, it's not been my personal experience. The last two jobs I've gotten have been a miserable hour-and-forty-five-minutes of stop-and-go traffic away from my house, but I didn't have any trouble getting them. Now that I'm finally in a job that I actually like though, I'm looking for a house with a more sane commute time. Not because I need it for the job (hell, my direct super lives even farther away, astoundingly) but because it's where I want to live.

Not saying that commute discrimination doesn't happen, but I've not seen it myself. It probably helps that I work out in the burbs and have a job that involves a lot of work-related driving (it comes with a company vehicle, even—such a nice benefit) so doing a lot of driving is considered pretty normal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:26 PM on September 7


I understand why this is problematic. It's good that we have quantifiable information on this issue I'm glad the effect is as small as it is & I hope that we can find ways to compensate for the downsides of having a commute.

But is it really reasonable to call this discrimination?

Is it unreasonable for employers to favor candidates who are better able to get to work on time or on short notice?

Is qualification discrimination going to be next?
posted by KBGB at 5:34 PM on September 7 [14 favorites]


What I think matters here though is that prospective employees who live far away, especially ones applying for low-wage jobs, are fighting the perception that they're going to be unreliable in terms of showing up.

And you know, I get the employer's perspective there. Employees at low-wage jobs are frequently bad about showing up on time reliably to begin with (I know that there are lots of important reasons why this is the case) and the farther away they live, the more likely it is that they'll have a hard time getting to work—because transit sucks, or they have a shitty unreliable car, or they rely on a friend or family member to drive them and sometimes that person can't do it.

What I've personally done in the interviews for my last two jobs (where my home was obnoxiously far away from my work) was to acknowledge that issue and address it. I would say something like, "The commute is going to be tough, but I'm confident that I can get here on time anyway. I'll have to get up early and leave myself a good buffer for traffic, but I'll make it. And in the longer term, I'd like to move closer to [work location] anyway for [reasons], so if I got this job I'd start looking for a place nearby right away." In the first case I didn't actually move because I didn't like the job and actually left after a little over a year, but in the second case I liked the job enough that I'm now looking to buy a house.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:37 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


But is it really reasonable to call this discrimination?

Yes. Because it's a proxy factor companies can use to dump qualified PoC candidates, thanks to decades of gentrification and redlining pushing most people of colour outside of neighbourhoods with good transit coverage, without facing down a lawsuit.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:50 PM on September 7 [77 favorites]


So...sounds like a good reason not to put your address on your resume.
posted by medusa at 5:53 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


While I'm sure one could use this as a proxy factor for discrimination, it's a legitimate criteria for an employee all on its own.

When I did this for a living, I did often favor people closer to work and in less-distant cities (because time zones) hundreds of times. It might not be a disqualifying point, but it definitely got weighed. If I had to guess, I'd say it was worth 5-20%, depending on the employer. Someone closer or in the right city is more likely to want the job and keep the job, is the thinking, not just take it until they find something more convenient and closer to home. Obviously other factors can outweigh it, and there are also sometimes bonus points for an applicant who travels a very long way (like 10+ hours) for an interview, because some employers really like that kind of desire. Yes, these are somewhat contradictory, but when screening hundreds of prospects for a single position, you need a lot of razors.

Clever applicants know this stuff, and will say something like "I'm in Newark now, but I'm planning to move into the city once I get settled into a new job."

It could be used as an excuse to discriminate, sure, but couldn't almost anything? If I prefer certain hires to be graduates of Harvard over Hudson County Community College, am I discriminating against the 55% Latino graduates from HC?
posted by rokusan at 6:39 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]



It could be used as an excuse to discriminate, sure,


here's the thing. it doesn't need to be an excuse or an intent. it's baked into many cities. Live nearby or on good transit? You are more likely white and/or rich.

unlike harvard, unless routine neighborhood travel or immediate-in-person-on-call is actually part of your job, it doesn't have to do with qualifications.
posted by lalochezia at 7:00 PM on September 7 [31 favorites]


Chicago requires Chicago Public S school teachers to live in the city, same with police officers and some other employees must live within the County. I assumed it was based in that commuting fron Indiana is very much a thing, due to significant tax and cost of living differences, and the commutes aren't more than other suburbia locations.

It infuriates me regardless.

Of course getting a better job can help you move closer to where you work. But with such job instability though, right to work states, and shitty benefits you can't plan your living location around employment.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:04 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


I’ve known several places including call centers to intentionally hire with geographic dispersion for business continuity purposes. If a bridge is inaccessible on a certain day people can still get to the office. If the power in the city goes down you still have people on other grids that have a reasonable possibility of being able to get online until things are sorted out.

There have been a couple of people we hired where we had concerns about them sticking around because they were an hour and 45 minutes away. With a few exceptions they’ve quit after a couple of months...because of the commute.
posted by mikesch at 7:11 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


So...sounds like a good reason not to put your address on your resume.

Which is all fine and dandy until you need to fill out the boilerplate resume form they give you, which you'll get from most low-wage employers.
posted by schroedinger at 7:13 PM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Chicago requires Chicago Public S school teachers to live in the city, same with police officers and some other employees must live within the County. I assumed it was based in that commuting fron Indiana is very much a thing, due to significant tax and cost of living differences, and the commutes aren't more than other suburbia locations.

This is generally premised on the idea that if you live in the community where you work, you will understand the people there better and give more of a shit about them. For someone like a cop or a teacher, it matters a lot whether or not you can empathize with the issues that the people you serve are likely to be facing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:15 PM on September 7 [22 favorites]


The transit systems are definitely unreliable and undesirable. I live in a packed urban area, yet I still have to walk 1.5 miles each way to the most effective bus stop. When I was looking for work, I limited myself to places within 5 miles of home. I can't imagine trying to travel 10+ miles twice a day. Brutal.

And employers will pass judgement on people without a car, without a cell phone, with a shirt that doesn't quite fit right. Even if the CEO doesn't give a shit, the direct supervisor more often than not holds these things against them.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:23 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


" I assumed it was based in that commuting fron Indiana is very much a thing, due to significant tax and cost of living differences, and the commutes aren't more than other suburbia locations. "

It's because in a struggling city, those are middle-class jobs (in Chicago, those are union jobs, that you won't get fired from if you fucking murder a kid on the job) paid for with local property tax dollars, and it's fuckin' infuriating to have all of that money -- school teachers account for around 56% of municipal property tax costs in Illinois -- cycled immediately out of your community so that the middle-class jobs you are creating with often-oppressive taxes serve to funnel your tax dollars into lower-tax suburban areas. It also creates a dynamic where the cops and teachers aren't a part of the community they serve, and treat the city as a war zone they come to to work, where they deal with enemy combatants, instead of neighbors and children who are members of a community they belong to and serve.

In Peoria we weren't allowed to have an in-city requirement (Illinois only allows Chicago to, for the most part). Peoria has amongst the highest property tax rates in the entire nation -- on a $115,000 house I was paying $3800/year. ALMOST ALL OF THAT was immediately siphoned out of the city to teachers and cops living in white-flight suburbs where they bought $300,000 homes and paid $1800/year in taxes that had excellent schools, while the city itself struggled to create good-paying jobs and keep schools open.

There is a word for that, and the word you're looking for is "colonialism." Where rich white people come in and extract all the wealth and capital that a poor minority community creates. There's no opportunity to create a virtuous cycle where cities build stronger institutions and better jobs and that builds stronger, safer, and wealthier communities when the money that would allow any of that to happen is deliberately siphoned off to rich white people in the suburbs. Poor people in the city who are struggling to buy enough food for their children are LITERALLY SUBSIDIZING RICH PEOPLE IN THE SUBURBS.

That said, I don't actually think the solution to this is to residency restrictions, at least not in small cities like Peoria where the job market is quite limited, although I do think the state should allow or encourage incentives like financial bonuses for teachers who live within the school district, preference hiring for people who live within the city/district, etc. But the real solutions are to reduce that kind of race-to-the-bottom, which Minnesota has done around Minneapolis/St. Paul, mandating regional planning and forbidding suburbs from attempting to outbid each other with, say, increasingly ridiculous tax incentives that eviscerate the tax base to bring a Costco to their suburb, and requiring all regional governmental units to contribute to basically an equalization fund that "tops up" areas that aren't getting as much tax funding or that are suffering from this kind of tax drain. If cities in the tri-county area around Peoria had to remit to Peoria some of the taxes they drained from the city, that could help kickstart a virtuous cycle where outlying suburbs pay a property tax that's closer to the real, unsubsidized cost of their suburbs, and the city pays less in property tax, making the city more attractive and the suburbs more accurately-priced, and allowing investment in schools and public safety and public health that Peoria currently struggles to do because we collect a shit-ton of property taxes for the express purpose of handing it to suburbanites who think we're all thugs and morons and deserve to be treated with contempt.

That's why Chicago prefers that the LITERAL BILLIONS it spends on schools ($5.5 billion in 2017) and cops every year stay in the city, instead of subsidizing the lifestyles of the wealthy on the North Shore which, having grown up there, I feel quite comfortable saying don't need fuckin' subsidizing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 PM on September 7 [95 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about the other end - i.e. housing discrimination and gentrification saddling poor folks and minorities with insane commutes.
posted by atoxyl at 9:37 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Many police departments that don't have explicit residency requirements actually back door them through requiring that take home vehicles be garaged overnight in the jurisdiction or within a certain distance of the station. It's basically the negative equivalent of a bonus for living in the jurisdiction.

Sadly, while it is common, the majority of departments have neither residency requirements or significant restrictions on take home vehicles.

To bring it back to the topic at hand, while there is an obvious avenue for discrimination based on residence, it is in some cases a useful tool in preventing/reducing other problems.
posted by wierdo at 9:40 PM on September 7


Maybe tangential: this article in the Seattle Times today finds that the top 3 professions taking transit in Seattle are college professors, housecleaners, and computer programmers.

Colleges and tech companies tend to be well-served by transit (also programmers rarely have to show up on time to anything), and...I'm not sure about housecleaners, aside from that maybe their wealthy employers live in well-served areas and they don't have to carry that many supplies (compared to carpenters, who are among the least likely).
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:15 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


I've had recruiters act affronted when I said I'm unwilling to commute two hours each way to work. (Silicon Valley is always hiring tech-ish people, and I'm tech-ish.) But there's no single vehicle public transit that goes from where I am to where anyone is hiring - it's either train + bus, or more likely, train + bus + bus, and over 1.5 hours; up to 2 depending on how far out on the bus routes it is.

My current commute is a 20-minute train ride with three stops, with about eight minutes walk on one end and less than three on the other. When I'm looking for work, I refuse to look at San Jose-area jobs at all.

I can see where, "are you going to get annoyed at the transit time and quit to find something closer" is a concern. But I also know that, like education requirements, "prefer someone who lives nearby" often means "prefer someone with a particular background." In my industry, "lives nearby" usually means "someone who is comfortable spending $2500/month on a small apartment" - meaning, someone whose family made over $100k/year in the 80s so there's no sticker shock with local housing costs, someone who isn't supporting a family now, someone who's willing to let the workplace be their social life... not quite the same as "rich, white, cis, het, male," but the results will skew that direction.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:13 PM on September 7 [13 favorites]


As an employee I’m more likely to choose a closer job because lower commutes equal better quality of life, and better quality of life equals happier me. As an employer I prefer happier employees.

That this situation results in discrimination on axes other than quality of life is definitely a problem, but I don’t think it’s one that can be solved on an employer <> employee basis easily.
posted by grubby at 12:39 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Maybe the culture is different here, but I worked at a place for a while where a long commute seemed to be treated as a badge of honour, a sign of your commitment to the workplace. We have a really unhealthy attitude in some sectors that suffering for the company (long commutes, doing hours before and after your work hours, being seen to answer emails at 11pm, coming in when you're sick, telling everyone just how tired you are) is a sign that you're behind the cause - as if the enrichment of the employer is some kind of cause to get behind.

Anyway, this particular workplace was in a small town in the middle of nowhere for apparently no reason - there are large towns and cities all around, but they'd decided to base themselves in this little place that was tough to get to. Everyone commuted from a town or city and seemed to compete as to how far they travelled to work each day. "I come from [place an hour away]." "Well, I come from [place 90 minutes away]." And so on. Weird attitude. I couldn't deal with the 90 minute commute and the workplace was a shithole so I quit, and it's since closed down so I think I made the right call.

Over-centralisation in cities is an equally tough problem. Most employers love to be based right in the very core of a major city, which is great for them, and great for the better-paid staff - nice coffee, lunchtime yoga, lots of lovely expensive bites to eat right on the office doorstep, networking opportunities for the boss. Far better than being on a suburban business park. But if you're the admin person on the minimum wage taking a packed lunch and a flask every day because a city centre lunch is two hours' wages then getting to and from the city centre on 5mph roads or packed, broken trains is a fucking pointless ordeal.

You'd think that with technology the way it is now, the fact that I can sit in my little house in the English suburbs and connect to someone in New York in ~100 milliseconds, that we'd be getting less centralised and people would get to live in places they wanted to, rather than places that happen to be near where the boss wants to put his company. It seems to be going in the opposite direction with smaller towns and rural areas - places that used to have jobs and people and life - hollowing out and becoming little more than dormitories where everyone gets up and jumps into cars at ever-earlier times to crawl into the nearest big city.
posted by winterhill at 2:27 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


Eyebrows, i apologize for my post on a complicated topic into a short complaint, and of course YES! what you said.

I don't know that the residency requirement in Chicago assists with community engagement as each neighborhood is sort of seen as it's own community (and police and teacher assignments can be very far from housing location). Rogers Park and South Shore are both Chicago, but 10 miles from each other. And based on where I live I rarely am in either . It might as well be a suburb. The theory sounds nice, but I'm not sure of how it works in practice (especially with a city that is so incredibly segregated).

My job now has a similar residency requirement to live in Cook County and I litterally cannot afford to buy a property here in Chicago (part of this is student loan related , part of this is housing costs vs wage increases) and I just can't. And there are plenty reasons why and many teachers, police officers and other employees are unable to either. A consequence of that is middle class folks pay property owners rent and never accumulate assets.

Ultimately housing costs, housing discrimination and emloyer discrimination are so incredibly intertwined. I'm glad that these studies can help us think about how agencies chose employees and the impacts those decisions across the board can be harmful to groups of people.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:11 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I work in Manhattan. In my experience, my students and co-workers who take a commuter train or bus to work tend to be earlier than their peers who live closer. The train and bus schedules make it so that if they aren't early, they're very late.
posted by Drab_Parts at 4:59 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


In the DC area it's not uncommon for government employees to commute 2 hours each way. Most of the people I hitch-hiked with my 5 years commuting 50 miles each way into DC were government employees. I got a remote job two years ago and moved to Richmond last year to make sure I never, ever had to do that again.

Although earlier this year I saw a commuter van in my neighborhood that does Richmond to DC every day. That's 100 miles each way on the most congested highway in America.
posted by COD at 5:03 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Long commutes can wear you down and make you a grumpy low paid worker. So you’re going to get dinged for not having a good attitude. Best not try for that cheerful customer service job.
posted by xtian at 6:05 AM on September 8


I would like to see laws that require all police officers to live in the jurisdiction they serve. If they can't afford it, the city needs to pay them more. If they're afraid to live in the district, the city needs to change its policing tactics. They're supposed to serve and protect - and that's easier, and better done, if they're serving and protecting "us" rather than "them." (I understand that residency is only one axis of "us," but it's one that ties into a lot of others.)

And I can see a similar argument with teachers: they will be better teachers if they think of their students as "my future community," and requiring them to live in the same city, even in a different neighborhood, creates the "these are my people" thought on a deep subconscious level.

In general, it's better when people live near their jobs - but until corporations are required to support communities, instead of the other way around, the productivity costs of long commutes need to be paid by the companies, not the workers. The ideal solutions include more branch offices and better telecommuting, not company towns, and not culling the workforce down to those who can afford to live in big cities.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:20 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I think the main thrust of the article's policy recommendations was less about what employers need to do (nobody's suggesting neighborhoods become protected classes or liability be introduced!) and more about housing policy -- continuing to cluster "social housing" in particular neighborhoods without good transit or easy access to central business districts does, in fact, create a self-reinforcing poverty trap where employers are less-likely to hire employees not even necessarily because they live in social housing but because it's far away. So when we think about low-income housing, we need to be thinking about access to jobs. And when we think about central business districts, we need to be thinking about low-wage employees (janitors, secretaries, security guards, etc.) who need to get there to work there. (Also note that the study finds a penalty at FIVE AND SIX MILES -- not just at 2-hour commutes from far-distant suburbs!)

With respect to employers, I've wondered for a while about the practicality of providing a tax incentive to reduce commutes. I'm not totally sure how you'd do it in such a way that you wouldn't create perverse incentives or penalize employees, but I could imagine a situation where if 60% of your management, 60% of your labor, and 60% of your support functions (janitorial, etc.) all lived within X commuting minutes of your location, you get a nice chunk of tax break, which -- at scale, and when all the employees who lived within that time radius had already been snapped up -- would incentivize employers to pay better so more of their employees could afford to live closer, and create a corporate constituency for improved public transit and better/more low-income housing. (Obviously you would have to think really carefully about how to divide employee classes because you don't want them to hand all their management big raises but ignore their labor, and you don't want them outsourcing things like janitorial functions to miserable subcontractors just to get to the magic number, and you don't want them converting half the workforce to contract employees!) It would also have beneficial environmental effects, and beneficial quality-of-life effects for employees.

"I don't know that the residency requirement in Chicago assists with community engagement as each neighborhood is sort of seen as it's own community (and police and teacher assignments can be very far from housing location). ... The theory sounds nice, but I'm not sure of how it works in practice (especially with a city that is so incredibly segregated)."

Yeah, huge problem in Chicago, where Chicago cops in particular self-segregate into particular neighborhoods and then police those neighborhoods very different ways than they police black neighborhoods.

Some communities are experimenting with buying houses in difficult neighborhoods (difficult for different reasons -- could be high crime, or high poverty, or too expensive for cops to live in) and having a cop and their family move in and live there. They usually have to commit to like a five-year stint as a cop-in-residence, and then they're a beat cop in that community. The hope is that the community gets to know and trust the officer, and the officer gets to know the community and can exercise more relational policing (and less gun-pulling policing). I largely think this is a good idea, however for one of the pilot programs Peoria did they had to buy a bulletproof crib for the cop's baby because some drug dealers got the idea that the way to get the cop to leave the neighborhood would be to shoot at his kids in the night. Which says "wow, a police presence in this neighborhood is sorely needed, these guys are super-threatened just by having a cop exist in proximity to their operation" but also "wow, you cannot really demand people take on a risk that their infant will be executed if they do their job" BUT ALSO "wow, people who live in this community are taking on a risk that their children will be murdered if they cross these drug dealers every day, if it's not safe for a cop it's clearly not safe for anybody to live here." So it's an intriguing solution to try and I look forward to seeing how this works in different cities with different programs, but it's definitely a complicated one with some alarming risks.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 AM on September 8 [10 favorites]


I live in the city of St. Louis. My commute is 25 miles one way to an office park that is served by one bus. That bus takes an hour 45 each direction, so obvs I drive. The bus stops in the office park are just a sign stuck in the grass by a curb. There are no sidewalks, shelters, or ramps. I have railed on this before but I believe when a company locates itself out in BFE like this, they are sending a message that they are not looking to draw a workforce from those who use public transit. This is classist, racist, and ableist.

It's also adjacent to a county which has refused to extend public transit because racist fear mongering.

PS also between two landfills. One of which is radioactive and the other is on fire.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:07 AM on September 8 [8 favorites]


if 60% of your management, 60% of your labor, and 60% of your support functions (janitorial, etc.) all lived within X commuting minutes of your location, you get a nice chunk of tax break

Phrase it as, "people working at a specific building" instead of "employees" - don't let them get the tax break by hiring their receptionists and janitors through contracting agencies. And maybe make it building-based rather than company based - companies can either find buildings for just them, or coordinate with other companies in a shared office building to give everyone a tax cut.

It's a great topic, suitable for hours of brainstorming and discussing possibilities before hammering out an actual plan. Unfortunately, it's not likely to go anywhere.

There are plenty of ways to set up incentives for reducing commute time and hassle; right now, they're all pipe dreams because companies like excluding people from isolated poor neighborhoods, and the racist populace and auto industry both support limited public transit options.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:36 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I don't ask interviewees where they live, but sometimes people volunteer that information. If they are telling me where they live, unprompted, it's usually in a negative context. They often tell me that they live right next to a competitor, as if signalling that they would rather work there but didn't get hired. It's in my list of 5,001 things interviewees do to undermine themselves.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:03 AM on September 8


They often tell me that they live right next to a competitor, as if signalling that they would rather work there but didn't get hired.
Unless they say "I live next to company X and I'd rather work there" then it's all in your head, it's something you're assuming is there but probably isn't. Candidates shouldn't have to second-guess the overactive imaginations of their interviewers. They should be able to make a statement and have it taken literally.
posted by winterhill at 9:12 AM on September 8 [19 favorites]


I want to add that there are two for-profit schools in the same office park and they do draw a lower income, transit dependent student body and there's something about seeing them stand in wet grass or snow waiting for the bus that actually seems publically cruel.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:05 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Unless they say "I live next to company X and I'd rather work there" then it's all in your head it's something you're assuming is there but probably isn't.

Making assumptions yourself, no?

Candidates shouldn't have to second-guess the overactive imaginations of their interviewers.

Yes, I'm sure you're much better at tofu_crouton's job than tofu_crouton.

They should be able to make a statement and have it taken literally.

Mmm, yeah... then again, maybe not. I mean, taken literally, for real? One of the first responses advocated lying. And it's not an unreasonable thing to do when seeking a job.

Regarding the post, duh. Of course commute discrimination is a thing. What planet does one have to have been living on to think otherwise? Perhaps it impacts poor people more. But it impacts an awful lot of not poor people too. Why? Because for many jobs, it's a pretty reasonable reason to discriminate. It's part of the calculus in determining which candidate is bet suited for a given position. Some are suited for long commutes. Others, not so much. The interview process has to try determining which applies. Of course, the process is perfectly fine when it works out in my favor. And when it doesn't, it's completely broken, there oughtta be a law, etc.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:46 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


"I live next to [competitor]" could easily mean, "I am aware of this industry and have developed an interest in it for obvious reasons - and I want to work here, even though [competitor] is closer."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:53 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I'm not totally sure how you'd do it in such a way that you wouldn't create perverse incentives or penalize employees, but I could imagine a situation where if 60% of your management, 60% of your labor, and 60% of your support functions (janitorial, etc.) all lived within X commuting minutes of your location, you get a nice chunk of tax break, which -- at scale, and when all the employees who lived within that time radius had already been snapped up -- would incentivize employers to pay better so more of their employees could afford to live closer, and create a corporate constituency for improved public transit and better/more low-income housing.

In areas where housing is expensive, one of the unintended effects might be ensuring that entry-level or lower-paying jobs go to people who can already afford to live near work because they have family or social networks that make that possible, while people who can't take that hit are still excluded - making the commute discrimination more entrenched. I wonder how adjusting those percentages, especially for labor and support staff, might change that?
posted by Anita Bath at 12:36 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I attended a " Citizen's Academy" hosted by the Costa Mesa PD. For the life of me I can't remember what they were specifically, but a (female, if that matters) officer outlined several good reasons why it was not a good idea for her to live in Costa Mesa. Anyway, these people are spending 10 hours a day in the community they serve. Can we really assume that they aren't part of the community just because they don't live there?
posted by Brocktoon at 2:02 PM on September 8


If the majority of your time is spent in your car or harassing people walking down the street, then you're a part of the community, but not really in a way that the community appreciates.
posted by schroedinger at 3:15 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I had a job for half a decade where I lived a block from my workplace. It was sometimes useful to be still snoring at 8:40 AM and at my desk at 9:00. The downside to it was that once after the office had a break-in the big cheese decided to have a burglar alarm installed. The alarm company needed a contact number for any irregularities because they charged us $120 or something to dispatch a car and check up on the site. I was the obvious choice as I could be there in three minutes if they called to say the alarm went off.

In practice what it meant was that about once every three weeks I got a call from the alarm service at 3:45 AM or so saying that they had an interruption of signal for four seconds; this meant I had to weigh whether it was an Ocean's 11-style heist that could have potentially netted a couple of laptops and the two hundred bucks in petty cash, or maybe it was a fluke.

Incidentally, when I was hired for the job, I lived 400 km away, and ended up again living that far away for the latter five years of my decade working there.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:39 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


That sounds terrible ricochet biscuit. I lived within walking distance of a retail job and was the person who had to go to work on snow days because I was the only person who could physically get there and the corporate overlords wouldn't let us close the store
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:51 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I have to admit that I had a job in retail management and a store where HR hired predominantly people with a huge commute. Turn over was high for a lot of reasons, but keeping shifts covered was a nightmare and tended to fall on myself and a few workers who lived close by. We were all burned out very quickly. For shifted work, it's not unreasonable to consider proximity a plus, along with other factors of reliability.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:33 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


It's not huge commutes being discussed here. The study discussed in the article found a penalty after five or six miles from the workplace. That's still in the proximity of the business by any reasonable measure.

Ultimately the whole business model of these types of jobs is exploitation, and that's at the root of the "reliability" problem. Expecting someone to come in at a moment's notice is not a reasonable thing. Shift work that never gives you a consistent schedule is a problem. Businesses can try to save money by doing these sorts of things, but they shouldn't be surprised when that lack of respect is reflected back at them.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:17 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I'm in the DMV area (northern VA) and, yes, a candidate's commute does come up in most of our interviews. Is that one factor a deal breaker? No, but we also recognize that it does factor into whether or not a person will ultimately be successful in a their new job. I have seen too many candidates quit because they did not anticipate how bad their commute would be. We invest a year+ of training and they end up quitting to work closer to home or get let go because of their work suffers.

Many of the folks I work with commute 2-4 hours per day. Many have been doing it for decades. If a person has been commuting 2-3 hours a day for years and their job performance is minimally affected, it wouldn't make me bat an eyelash.
posted by jraz at 7:31 AM on September 10


There have been a couple of people we hired where we had concerns about them sticking around because they were an hour and 45 minutes away. With a few exceptions they’ve quit after a couple of months...because of the commute.

Exactly. At my previous job I can think of at least a couple of guys who had monster commutes. One guy took commuter trains (God help him) and one guy drove to the end of a subway line and then rode that in to the city.

They were diligent, even early, for a few weeks of the honeymoon period.

Then a snowstorm or two hit.

A few months went by. More work from home.

The grind of the commute was a great source of misery for both of them. Even if you genuinely like your job and your co-workers, a seriously long commute is a painful grind at the best of times, and a nightmare during bad weather or transportation disruptions.
posted by theorique at 1:09 PM on September 10


I had a 2 hour commute each way to my last job and stayed 15 years, so I'm not sure a long commute .

This is obviously particularly American focused because of the study, but I wonder how it translates to places like London where there is a substantial wealthy cohort that live 100km or more out of town. We lived near Cambridge and there were plenty of London daily commuters, most very much white collar.
Where I live now near Sydney also has a varied cohort of mega-commuters. Typically they are academics, or web designers or other white collar people who looked at inner city life when they wanted to raise a family and decided to jump over the suburbs and live somewhere non-metropolitan. They often have non-5-day a week jobs or the ability to work a day or two at home so it is less punishing.

In fact, it is mostly the people on higher incomes doing the commuting. If you want retail or hospitality or labouring work it is available locally - it is only if you want high paying work that a commute is necessary.
posted by bystander at 4:24 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


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