Do work commutes moderate the association between perceived neighborhood disorder and psychological distress? By: Jacobs, Anna W.; Brailsford, Jennifer M. Community, Work & Family. Dec2019, Vol. 22 Issue 5, p589-605. 17p.

Although numerous studies show that living in a neighborhood that is characterized by disorder (crime and dilapidation) can be psychologically distressing, very few studies have considered the element of exposure time or duration of exposure to adverse neighborhood environments. In this paper, we explore the intersection of commuting, mental health, and the subjective experience of neighborhood disadvantage and impoverished community life. Using data from the Welfare, Children, and Families project (2001), a probability sample of 1057 low-income women with children living in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, we test whether the association between neighborhood disorder and psychological distress is moderated or attenuated by commuting time and distance. Our results show that although neighborhood disorder is associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and somatization, disorder tends to be less distressing for residents who are able to spend time away from these environments through longer commuting times and distances. In other words, working away from one’s neighborhood of residence may help to mitigate the adverse psychological consequences of neighborhood disorder. Our findings support previous research on the stress process and neighborhood disorder. Our work builds on the commuting literature by re-conceptualizing commuting time and distance as protective resources for disadvantaged populations.