ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (11): 1449-1459.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.01449

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 Resolving “Commuting Paradox”: How commute time influences subjective well-being

 WU Weijiong   

  1.  (Business Administration College, Zhejiang University of Finance & Economics, Hangzhou 310018 China)
  • Received:2016-11-03 Published:2017-11-26 Online:2017-09-25
  • Contact: WU Weijiong, E-mail: E-mail:E-mail:
  • Supported by:

Abstract:  People in today’s society spend a substantial amount of their time traveling to and from work. Researchers have rightfully concerned themselves with the question of if and how commuting affects people’s lives. Some behavioral economists suggested that commute time play a negative effect on individuals’ life satisfaction. This phenomenon is called “commuting paradox”, in which individuals’ utility are imbalance due to longer commuting time is not compensated. The present study regards commute time as the work-family transition zone, such as social transition zone and psychological transition zone. With these perspectives, we aimed to examine the moderating roles that marital status (social transition zone) and recovery experiences (psychological transition zone) play in the relationship between commute time and subjective well-being. What is more, the mediating mechanism of commuting utility was explored. In order to test our model, we conducted a survey on 822 part-time graduates from three colleges. Data were collected from 3 follow-up surveys to avoid the common method bias. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires at three time points (Time 1: commute time, marital status and recovery experiences; Time 2: commuting utility; and Time 3: satisfaction with life, happiness). These variables were assessed by: commute time survey, marital status survey, recovery experiences questionnaire, satisfaction with life scale, PANA scale, and Princeton affect and time survey. All Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were acceptable (ranging from 0.83 to 0.91). Descriptive statistics and hierarchical polynomial regression analysis were applied to test the hypotheses. The results indicated that: (1) marital status (social transition zone) moderated effects of commute time on subjective well-being, i.e., unmarried employees’ commute time had negative impact on life satisfaction, married employees’ commuting time had U shape impact on life satisfaction, happiness and occupational well-being; (2) recovery experiences during work→home commute (psychological transition zone) moderated effects of commute time on outcome variables, i.e., psychological detachment moderated relationships between unmarried employees’ commute time and commuting utility; relax experience moderated the relationship between unmarried employees’ commute time and happiness; (3) effects of married employees’ commute time on commuting utility and happiness were moderated by relax experience, whereas the relationship between married employees’ commute time and life satisfaction were moderated by psychological detachment; (4) commuting utility not only mediated the effects of commute time on life satisfaction and happiness, but also mediated the moderations of marital status and recover experiences; (5) employees’ utility equilibrium were found during “commuting time trap” (1.75 h - 2.75 h), in which longer commuting time was compensated. Significance: The present study analyzed the commuting paradox from two aspects, including social transition zone and psychological transition zone. Then we built a theoretical model regarding how commute time influences employee’s subjective well-being. Together, our findings contribute to the literature by helping to (a) provided a psychological explanation for commuting paradox, (b) integrate commuting utility, life satisfaction and happiness, (c) resolve mixed findings regarding the issue of commute time and subjective well-being. The managerial implications of our findings, limitations, as well as future research directions were discussed.

Key words: commuting paradox, subjective well-being, commute time, recovery experience, commuting transition zone.

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