Skip Page Banner  
Skip Navigation

13.4 Million Workers Home-Based in 2010, Up 18 Percent Over Five Years, Agency Says

Friday, December 21, 2012
About 13.4 million Americans worked from at home at least one day per week in 2010, almost 2.1 million more than did so five years earlier, according to figures released Oct. 4 by the Census Bureau.

The 18 percent increase between 2005 and 2010 boosted the proportion of employees who worked at least part of the time from home to 9.5 percent from 7.8 percent, as the number of Americans employed declined by 2 percent, the agency said, based on a continuing survey of about 5,000 households.

The period included the 2007-2009 recession, when employers laid off millions of workers.

Among all home-based workers in 2010, more than two-thirds (70 percent) worked exclusively at home, while the rest had mixed work schedules, spending at least one day working at home or teleworking from home and the rest of the week working at their employer's worksite or other locations.

“Private wage and salary workers predominately engaged in mixed work, while home workers were more likely to be self-employed,” the Census Bureau said.


Mondays, Fridays Most Popular
Mixed schedule workers tend to work the same number of hours per week as workers employed exclusively onsite, while those employed exclusively at home work fewer hours and were more likely to report that their hours vary from week to week, according to the report.

In addition, mixed schedule workers are more likely than home-only workers to work Mondays through Fridays.

The most popular days to work at home for mixed workers were Mondays and Fridays, when 38 percent of all mixed schedule employees worked from home, the highest shares for any day. The least popular day of the workweek to work from home for these workers was Thursday (29 percent).

One of the most striking differences between the two categories of home-based workers was their median annual earnings, with mixed-schedule workers earning more than twice as much as home workers ($52,800 versus $25,500), the Census Bureau said. Those who worked exclusively outside of the home had median earnings of $30,000.

The median is the halfway point, at which half of all workers in the category earned more than that amount, and half earned less.


Dramatic Changes in Home-Based Work
“Since the Census Bureau began collecting data on home-based work in the 1960 Census, the characteristics of home-based workers have changed significantly,” the agency said.

In the 1960s, home-based workers were primarily self-employed family farmers and professionals, including doctors and lawyers, but in 2010, about half were self-employed and half were employed in private industry or government, according to the report.

“The data indicate that being self-employed may allow workers to perform all of their work from home, while working for an employer may be more conducive to partial home-based work,” it said. Between 2005 and 2010, growth in the number of home-based workers was higher for those with mixed schedules than for those employed exclusively at home (51 percent versus 43 percent).

Excluding the self-employed and the agriculture sector, the proportion of employees who were home-based grew over the last decade in all industries and government.

The most rapid growth between 2000 and 2010 occurred in state government (133 percent), to 2.4 percent from 1.0 percent, as measured under a more conservative definition of at-home workers in the Census Bureau's American community survey of 3 million households.

By comparison, the share of workers employed by nonfarm businesses who were home-based grew by 67 percent over the 10 years, to 2.5 percent from 1.5 percent.

Only 4.3 percent of all workers, including the agricultural sector and self-employed workers, usually worked at home in 2010, under the survey's definition, which excludes those who spend the majority of the week working at their employer's worksite or other location away from home.

The nonfarm business industry with the highest share of home-based workers was professional, scientific, and technical and administrative and waste management (9.3 percent).


Benefits of Technology, Communications
By occupation, the proportion of home-based workers in computer, engineering, and science occupations increased 69 percent between 2000 and 2010, to 6.1 percent from 3.6 percent, according to the report.

“Workers in these occupations are more likely to be able to benefit from computer technology, voice and electronic communications, and remote connectivity to complete their work,” the Census Bureau said.

Jobs in which work must be performed onsite--such as health care practitioner, construction, installation, and production occupations--are less likely to benefit from technology and they have disproportionately low rates of home-based work compared with their share of the workforce.

Although some studies have examined whether women work from home to increase compatibility between work and family responsibilities, the Census Bureau found few major differences between men and women in the shares who were home-based workers “after accounting for their class of worker, industrial, and occupational distributions.”

The results reflect the fact that men and women work in different sectors of the economy and have different jobs, the agency said.

Among self-employed workers, however, the proportion of women who worked from home was higher than that of men both among those with incorporated businesses (24 percent versus 15 percent) and unincorporated businesses (30 percent versus 20 percent).

By region, the West had the highest proportion of home-based workers in 2010 (11.4 percent), while shares in other regions ranged from 8.6 percent in the South to 9.3 percent in the Northeast.

Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to work in home-based jobs compared to onsite jobs, accounting for 10.8 percent and 13.9 percent of the workforce, respectively, in 2010 but only 5.8 percent and 5.1 percent of mixed-schedule workers, respectively.

By contrast, non-Hispanic whites accounted for 69.5 percent of all workers but 82.5 percent of mixed-schedule workers.

By age, home-based workers were most likely to fall into the middle age groups, with workers ages 35 to 54 accounting for over half of mixed-schedule workers (56 percent) and about half of home-only workers (49.6 percent).

Working exclusively from home was more prevalent among workers ages 55 to 64, who accounted for 21.1 percent of such workers, compared with 15.1 percent of onsite workers and 18.6 percent mixed-schedule workers, and was also more prevalent among workers 65 and over (10.4 percent), than onsite work (4.2 percent) and mixed work (5.1 percent).


Text of the report is available at /uploadedFiles/Content/News/Legal_and_Business/Bloomberg_Law/Legal_Reports/Home-Based-Workers-2010(1).pdf.

To view additional stories from Bloomberg Law® request a demo now