by Michael Sivak.
This analysis examines the recent changes in the percentage of people who work at home and changes in time spent commuting to work in the United States and in the 15 largest US cities. The source of the data is the American Community Survey—an ongoing survey by the US Census Bureau. The analysis uses the estimates for 2012 and 2017. The information is for workers 16 years of age and older. The city data apply to the cities listed and not their respective metropolitan areas.
The table below shows the percentages of workers who worked at home, both for the entire country and for the 15 largest cities, with the cities listed in decreasing order of this percentage in 2017.
The percentage increased both for the United States (from 4.4% in 2012 to 5.2% in 2017), and for each examined city except for San Jose (which showed a decrease). In 2017, the percentage in the individual cities ranged by a factor of 2.4—from 8.8% in Austin to 3.6% in Fort Worth.
The table below shows the mean one-way travel time to work (by any means) for those who did not work at home, both for the entire country and for the 15 largest cities (with the cities listed in decreasing order of the mean travel time in 2017).
The mean travel time increased both for the United States (from 25.7 minutes in 2012 to 26.9 minutes in 2017), and for each examined city except for Columbus (which showed no change). In 2017, the mean travel time in the individual cities ranged by a factor of 1.9—from 41.8 minutes in New York to 21.6 minutes in Columbus.
This analysis has documented two seemingly opposing trends. On one hand, the percentage of those who work at home (and thus have travel time of zero) has recently increased, albeit they still represent only a small minority. On the other hand, for those who commute to work, travel time has increased.
Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.