Commuting to diversity

People from neighbourhoods with high residential diversity tend to commute to workplace neighbourhoods that are also more diverse than average. Photo: Fabrizio Verrecchia, Pexels.

Does commuting increase workers’ exposure to difference and diversity? The uneven spatial distribution of different population subgroups within cities is well documented. Individual neighbourhoods are generally less diverse than cities as a whole. Building Better researchers David Maré from Motu and Jacques Poot investigate.

Auckland is New Zealand’s most diverse city, but the impacts of diversity are likely to be less if interactions between different groups are limited by spatial separation. Studies of spatial sociodemographic diversity generally measure the diversity of local areas based on who lives in them. In this study, the researchers examine measures of exposure to local cultural diversity based on where people work as well as where they live. The measure of cultural diversity is based on country of birth, with ethnicity breakdowns for those born in New Zealand.

The study also examines whether the relationship between commuting and exposure to diversity differs between workers with different skills or types of job. The study focuses on diversity and commuting patterns within Auckland, using 2013 census microdata, and using local diversity measures calculated for each census area unit.

The researchers found that commuters who self-identify as New Zealand-born Europeans and residents born in England (together accounting for close to half of all commuters) are, of all cultural groups, the least exposed to diversity in the neighbourhoods where they live. However, overall, commuting to the workplace raises exposure to cultural diversity, and to the greatest extent for these two groups.

Degree-qualified commuters have the lowest levels of exposure to diversity at home and at work. In contrast, the 9% of commuters with no qualifications have the highest residential exposure to diversity.

Read the original report by the BBHTC Thriving Regions research team:

Maré, D. & Poot, J. (2019). Commuting to diversity. Motu Working Paper 19-20 for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: Thriving Regions. November 2019, 35pgs. Wellington: Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.

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Date posted: 18 May 2020