The evolution of work from home
What is this research about and why did you do it?
The pandemic-induced shift to work from home is a profound change in how many people live and work. We document the shift, explain why it has endured, describe its cross-sectional patterns, and discuss the implications for wage structures, productivity, and the pace of innovation.
How did you answer this question?
We exploit several surveys of individual workers and business executives. We also present statistics derived from millions of online job vacancy postings. Most of our data sources focus on the United States, but we also tap sources of data for dozens of other countries.
What did you find?
Full days worked at home account for 28 percent of paid workdays among Americans 20-64 years old, as of mid 2023. That's four times the 2019 rate and ten times the rate in the mid-1990s. We first explain why the big shift to work from home has endured. We then show how work-from-home rates vary by worker age, sex, education, parental status, industry and local population density, and why it is higher in the United States than most other countries. We also discuss some implications for pay, productivity, and the pace of innovation.
Work from Home over Time in the United States, Persons 20-64
What implications does this have for the study (research and teaching) of wealth concentration or economic inequality?
Most people, especially those living with children, highly value the opportunity to work from home two or three days a week. In practice, college-educated persons have much greater opportunities to work from home, and they work from home at much higher rates.
What are the next steps in your agenda?
To investigate how individuals and organizations are adapting to the new-found flexibility and variety in working arrangements, and to assess the implications for cities, productivity levels, and the pace of innovation.
Barrero, J. M., Bloom, N., and Davis, S. J. 2023. "The Evolution of Work from Home," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 37(4); pp 23-50