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America’s toughest commutes, charted

By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

For many Americans, the morning and evening commutes are the worst parts of the day. Nationally, Americans travel about 25 minutes each way to work. But there are 1.7 million people whose commutes exceed 90 minutes.

The map above shows median one-way commute times for all US counties with populations of over 20,000. Commutes were longer in the darker-colored counties and shorter in the lighter counties.

In addition to being a general drag, the slog has serious health and lifestyle implications. Longer commutes are associated with stress, pain, laziness, obesity, and divorce. They are bad news.

Given the severity of the consequences, one might expect those with the financial flexibility to avoid such commutes to do so. But it turns out that of the 20 counties with the longest commutes, nine are among the 100 wealthiest counties in the US.

And where are all the well-off commuters going? Washington, DC. When we only look at the 100 wealthiest US counties, 13 of the 20 longest median commutes are in the Washington area.

The remainder of the list is comprised of counties in the New York, Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco areas. Here’s the complete list of the 20 longest commutes from the 100 wealthiest counties.

If we look at all counties, rather than just the 100 wealthiest, there is more regional diversity, but the list is still stacked in the Washington area, with communities in the New York City area also appearing frequently.

This data comes from the 2013 three-year American Community Survey taken by the US Census Bureau. Measurements are taken for areas with a population of over 20,000, and they represent average values for 2011 to 2013.

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