Skip to content

Factors That Influence Being Able to Telecommute


Thursday, January 9, 2020

This is the second in a two-part series on the growth of telecommuting and what may be behind this growth.

In the previous post, Regional Economist Charles Gascon, former Research Intern Iris Arbogast and former Research Associate Andrew Spewak determined that technological advances, rather than occupational shifts in the labor force, likely explained the rising share of telecommuting workers in recent years.

Still, the authors found that occupational differences played a role in explaining the local disparities in telecommuting.

In 2017, the share of telecommuters in metropolitan statistical areas across the U.S. ranged from below 1% in Houma, La., to nearly 9% in Boulder, Colo. (See map below.)

Percentage of Telecommuters in Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 2017

“While occupation was not a key driver of national growth in working from home over time, we did find it important for explaining geographic variations in telecommuting,” they wrote. “Once we controlled for income, a region’s occupational mix was a significant predictor of the telecommuting share in metro areas.”

For example, the St. Louis metro area had a telecommuting share of 3.1%, while Memphis, Tenn., had a share just below 2.2%.

Part of these differences can be explained by the share of workers in management, business and financial occupations. “In St. Louis, 18.6% of workers are in these occupations, which tend to have a higher portion of employees working from home, while only 14.8% of workers are in these occupations in the Memphis metro area,” Gascon, Arbogast and Spewak wrote.

Which Workers Are More Likely to Telecommute

Besides occupation, they noted other characteristics that make telecommuting more likely for a worker: age and level of education, and whether one has children or lives in a metro area.

How do such factors affect the likelihood of being a telecommuter?

  • Those who are college-educated are 58% more likely to work from home, holding everything else constant.
  • Workers in metro areas are 74% more likely to telecommute than those in nonmetro areas.

The combination of these factors helps explain why some people are much more likely to telecommute than others.

“To give an example, a college-educated 40-year-old with a young child and who works in sales in a large city is predicted as having a 5.2% chance of being a telecommuter,” they wrote. “Meanwhile, a high school-educated 20-year-old with no children and who works in production in a rural area is predicted as having a 0.03% chance of being someone who works from home,” Gascon, Arbogast and Spewak wrote.

These factors explain almost all the variation in telecommuting rates across regions of the country, they said.

Additional Resources

Posted In Labor  |  Tagged charles gasconiris arbogastandrew spewaktelecommutinglabor forcetelecommuterwork from home
Commenting Policy: We encourage comments and discussions on our posts, even those that disagree with conclusions, if they are done in a respectful and courteous manner. All comments posted to our blog go through a moderator, so they won't appear immediately after being submitted. We reserve the right to remove or not publish inappropriate comments. This includes, but is not limited to, comments that are:
  • Vulgar, obscene, profane or otherwise disrespectful or discourteous
  • For commercial use, including spam
  • Threatening, harassing or constituting personal attacks
  • Violating copyright or otherwise infringing on third-party rights
  • Off-topic or significantly political
The St. Louis Fed will only respond to comments if we are clarifying a point. Comments are limited to 1,500 characters, so please edit your thinking before posting. While you will retain all of your ownership rights in any comment you submit, posting comments means you grant the St. Louis Fed the royalty-free right, in perpetuity, to use, reproduce, distribute, alter and/or display them, and the St. Louis Fed will be free to use any ideas, concepts, artwork, inventions, developments, suggestions or techniques embodied in your comments for any purpose whatsoever, with or without attribution, and without compensation to you. You will also waive all moral rights you may have in any comment you submit.
comments powered by Disqus

The St. Louis Fed uses Disqus software for the comment functionality on this blog. You can read the Disqus privacy policy. Disqus uses cookies and third party cookies. To learn more about these cookies and how to disable them, please see this article.