A new study from the University of Chicago find that only 34% of U.S. jobs could be performed at home. Using average hourly wages by occupation and assuming that all occupations involve the same hours of work, Jonathan Dingel and Brent Neiman determine that these jobs account for 44% all wages. It’s an important supplement to the growing body of COVID-19 research and the total unpreparedness – still only partially resolved – of the Federal and State Governments to provide for the health and security of our people.
“Our estimate is an upper bound on what might be feasible and greatly exceeds the share of jobs that in fact have been performed entirely at home in recent years,” they say. Jonathan Dingel and Brent Neiman conclude that identifying which jobs cannot be performed from home could help to target social insurance payments to those who need them the most.
They observe substantial variation across cities. For example, more than 40% of jobs in San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, and Washington, D.C., can be performed at home, compared with fewer than 30% in Fort Myers, Grand Rapids, and Las Vegas.
They also find differences across industries. While most jobs in finance, corporate management, and professional and scientific services can be performed at home, very few in agriculture, hotels, retail, or restaurants can be done remotely.
“Our work also relates to Mas and Pallais (2020), who offer a detailed and helpful overview of the prevalence, features, and demand for alternative working arrangements, including the ability to work from home. Citing the Quality of Worklife Survey and the Understanding American Study, they report that less than 13 percent of full- and part-time jobs have a formal “work-from- home” arrangement, even though twice that amount work often from home. According to Mas and Pallais, the “median worker reports that only 6 percent of their job could be feasibly done from home,” but plenty of jobs, including those in “computer and mathematical” and “business and financial operations” can do a majority of their work from home. We note that, in the context of the response to COVID-19, there is an important distinction between being able to do most and all of one’s work at home.
“Finally, a recently released paper by the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics (2020) reports that while 27 percent of the U.K. workforce said they’ve previously worked from home, only about 5 percent said they mainly work from home. Whether people have actually worked from home differs conceptually from the focal question of this note, which is whether these people could feasibly work from home.”
- Blinder, Alan. 2009. “How Many US Jobs Might be Offshorable?” World Economics, 10(2): 4178.
- Blinder, Alan S., and Alan B. Krueger. 2013. “Alternative Measures of Offshorability: A Survey Approach.” Journal of Labor Economics, 31(S1): 97-128.
- Mas, Alexandre, and Amanda Pallais. 2020. “Alternative Work Arrangements.” Annual Review of Economics.
- United Kingdom Office for National Statistics. 2020. “Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK labour market: 2019.” Working Paper