TELECOMMUTOCRACY

More Americans now work full-time from home than walk and bike to office jobs

Obsession
The Office
Obsession
The Office

In the United States, the past decade has been marked by booming cities, soaring rents, and a crush of young workers flocking to job-rich downtowns. Although these are heady days for pavement-pounding urbanists, a record 2.6% of American employees now go to their jobs without ever leaving their houses. That’s more than walk and bike to work combined.

These numbers come from a Quartz analysis of data from the US census and the American Community Survey. The data show that telecommuting has grown faster than any other way of getting to work—up 159% since 2000. By comparison, the number of Americans who bike to work has grown by 86% over the same period, while the number who drive or carpool has grown by only 12%. We’ve excluded both part-time and self-employed workers from these and all results.

Intriguingly, with an average annual income of nearly $80,000, people who work from home earn the highest wages of any major category of commuters tracked by the US census. (Broken down further, remote workers are edged out by those who commute by non-subway trains, taxis, or ferryboats.) This is mostly due to the nearly 550,000 remote workers who are managers—the largest group of home workers in any single job category.

Though managers are the largest group of remote workers, as a percentage of a specific occupation computer programmers are the most over-represented. Nearly 8% of programmers now work from home, following a staggering increase of nearly 400% since 2000.

If these changes continue or, as some have predicted, accelerate, the social implications could be enormous. For decades, high-earning jobs have clustered in expensive cities such as San Francisco and New York City. If well-paid programmers and managers relocate away from urban hubs, that could unwind the incredible wealth concentration that has made major cities unlivable for most Americans, including all those young, eager new workers.

The R code written for this analysis, as well as methodological notes, are published on Github.

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