Friday, October 5, 2012

Working From Home: Census Estimates

I try to work from home a couple of days each week: it saves me the commuting time, and I can be home when the children get off the school-bus in the afternoon. Thus, I'm also intimately aware of the temptations of working from home, like a sudden overpowering urge to re-arrange the living room furniture or to bake a batch of cookies. In its report on "Home-Based Workers in the United States: 2010," a group of U.S. Census Bureau analysts (Peter J. Mateyka, Melanie A. Rapino, and Liana Christin Landivar) steer clear of the gains and losses from working at home, and lay out the statistics on how widespread the practice is. The underlying data comes from two sources that are not directly comparable, because they ask about home-based work in somewhat different ways: the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the American Community Survey (ACS). That said, here are a few facts that jumped out at me. 

The proportion of workers who work from home has increased in the last decade or so, but it remains relatively low. "The percentage of all workers who worked at least 1 day at home increased from 7.0 percent in 1997 to 9.5 percent in 2010, according to SIPP. During this same time period, the population working exclusively from home in SIPP increased from 4.8 percent of all workers to 6.6 percent ... The percentage of workers who worked the majority of the workweek at home increased from 3.6 percent to 4.3 percent of the population between 2005 and 2010, according to the ACS."

Those who work at home part of the time and at a workplace part of the time typically have higher incomes either than those who are at a workplace all the time or those who are at home all the time. "Median personal earnings for mixed workers were significantly higher ($52,800) compared with onsite ($30,000) and home ($25,500) workers. While home workers had lower personal earnings than onsite workers did, respondents that reported working at least 1 day at home had significantly higher household incomes than respondents that reported working only onsite."

The prevalence of home-based work has followed a U-shape in recent decades, falling in the 1960s and 1970s but rising since then. "In the 1960s, home-based workers were primarily self-employed family farmers and professionals, including doctors and lawyers. Home-based work in the United States declined from 1960 to 1980, driven by changes in market conditions and the agriculture industry that began decades prior and favored large specialized firms over family farms. In 1980, the multiple-decade decline in home-based work reversed, led partly by self-employed home-based workers in professional and service industries."

The most rapid

"Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 67 percent increase in home-based work for employees of
private companies. Although still underrepresented among homebased workers, the largest increase in home-based work during this decade was among government workers, increasing 133 percent
among state government workers and 88 percent among federal government workers.

Those "mixed" workers who are partly at home and partly at the office are more likely to work at home on Mondays and Fridays (a fact that seems to me creates some suspicion about how much work is actually getting done). "About 90 percent of home workers reported working
Monday through Friday at home, compared with less than 40 percent of mixed workers. The most
popular days worked at home for mixed workers were Monday (37.6 percent) and Friday (37.8 percent) ..."

The top three cities for home-based work are Boulder, CO, Medford, OR, and Santa Fe, NM. Two of the top ten areas are in my home state of Minnesota--small cities with a branch of the state university system about an hour's drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul.