What do commuters Google?

Somewhere on I-95, maybe in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey or New York, an exasperated commuter, stuck in traffic for the umpteenth time this month, fiddles with an iPhone — no email, no Facebook notifications, no Tweets — and then Googles… what?

The Population Reference Bureau has a very nice data finder tool that easily produces tables and maps from Census data, as well as comparative data for many countries. Here’s the map showing average commute times for U.S. states, as reported by the 2009 American Community Survey, in minutes:

And, since you can easily output a state table, I couldn’t resist uploading the data to Google correlate and giving it a spin. This yields the 100 Google searches that most closely follow the same state pattern — common in the long commute-time states (NY and MD tied for #1 at 31 minutes), uncommon in the quick-commute states (17 minutes in the Dakotas and Montana).

The top 100 searches returned all had correlations between .85 and .90 on a scale of 0 to 1, so the ranking isn’t that important. This one jumped out at me: “change careers” (or maybe it should be, “CHANGE CAREERS!!?!?!”)

We don’t know these terms are things people with long commutes (or their loved ones) actually search for, but it doesn’t seem crazy. I could imagine people stuck in traffic Googling these as well (all correlated higher than .85):

  • live traffic update
  • live traffic updates
  • traffic update
  • best wireless service
  • buy mattress
  • deodorant spray
  • find a nutritionist
  • find a spa
  • find dermatologist
  • find psychiatrist
  • firm mattress
  • garment cover
  • hair loss specialist
  • salon directory
  • swimming lessons for adults
See the complete Google search series on Family Inequality here.

3 thoughts on “What do commuters Google?

  1. Most of these, especially careers, fit with the idea that those long-commute states have more than their share of the young, and ambitious. The effect would be stronger if you had data on zip codes, cities, or counties (NYC vs. upstate, Chicago vs.downstate). It’s the mattresses that puzzle me. Bedbugs?


  2. It’s certainly a sign that you work too much if you’re looking for ways to save time on putting on deodorant… and if you’re shopping for your mattress while driving to work in the morning. 🙂


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