Rural-to-Urban Commuting: Three Degrees of Integration


  • Mark Partridge is a professor for AED Economics, The Ohio State University, 2120 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210, USA. His e-mail address is Md Kamar Ali is a research associate for the University of Lethbridge, C576, University Hall, 4401 University Drive Lethbridge, AB, Canada. His e-mail address is M. Rose Olfert is a professor for Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan. 101 Diefenbaker Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B8, Canada. His e-mail address is Steven Deller and Tom Leinbach handled the editorial duties on this manuscript. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 48th Annual Southern Regional Science Association meetings in San Antonio, Texas. We thank Infrastructure Canada for their support in funding part of this research under a grant titled “Mapping the Rural-Urban Interface: Partnerships for Sustainable Infrastructure Development.” We also thank the Canada Rural Revitalization Foundation and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for their support of this project, in particular Robert Greenwood.


Commuting ties between rural places of residence and urban places of employment are among the most visible forms of rural–urban integration. For some rural areas, access to urban employment is a key source of population retention and growth. However, this access varies considerably across rural areas, with distance representing a primary deterrent. In addition to distance, the size of the urban community will also influence rural-to-urban commuting opportunities. In this paper, using Canadian data, we empirically estimated the influence of local rural population and job growth on rural out-commuting within the urban hierarchy. We find consistent support for the deconcentration hypothesis where population moves to rural areas for lifestyle and quality of life reasons, while retaining urban employment. Further, we find some evidence that in addition to distance from the nearest urban center being a deterrent, increased remoteness from the top of the urban hierarchy exerts a positive influence on out-commuting. Recognition of these types of rural–urban linkages through commuting is essential in designing Canadian rural policy and targeted programs that may effectively support local rural populations. In particular, they point to the need to have reasonable transportation infrastructure for urban accessibility, which should be complemented by other “built” infrastructure to improve the livability of rural communities.