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Blog Post · June 13, 2024

Who Works from Home?

This post is the second in a series on remote work in California. The first post examined how remote work is changing the state's labor market.

photo - Woman Wearing Headphones and on Zoom, Working in Her Home

Remote work was uncommon prior to the pandemic. But since then, the share of Californians who work from home has increased dramatically, from 6% in 2018–19 to 19% in 2021–22. Most workers consider remote work to be a desirable job benefit and more people would like to work from home than currently do so, according to PPIC surveys. As working conditions continue to shift, the largest group currently working remotely is college-educated parents of young children—but remote work varies considerably by education, income, race/ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics.

Education levels play a key role in who is able to work from home. Working Californians with high levels of education are more likely than others to work remotely for all or most of their work week. For example, workers with a bachelor’s or graduate degree are more than twice as likely to work from home as those with an associate’s degree—and more than three times as likely as workers with a high school diploma.

Much of this difference is driven by the occupations held by these highly educated—and highly paid—workers. Professional and scientific jobs lend themselves to remote work more readily than does manual labor or service sector jobs in areas such as food service or retail. The differences are striking when looking at income: among those making less than $20,000 a year, just 7.9% work from home, while for those making $200,000 or more, 33.7% do so.

We also find large differences in remote work across racial/ethnic groups. For example, about a quarter of Asian/Pacific Islander and white Californians work from home; only about 10% of Latino Californians do. Education levels and occupations drive these most of these differences; Latino, Black, and Native American workers generally have lower educational attainment and are more likely to work in occupations that require onsite work.

Occupations play an important part in racial/ethnic differences even across highly educated groups. For example, among workers with a bachelor’s or graduate degree, 22% of Latinos work remotely compared to 34% of Asian/Pacific Islanders. The most common occupation among college-educated Latinos is elementary or middle school teacher (only 10% work remotely). Among college-educated Asian/Pacific Islanders, software developer is the most common (60% work remotely).

Age is also a significant factor in who works from home. Younger Californians—those younger than 25 years old—are less than half as likely to work remotely as older Californians. Educational attainment and occupation, again, drive these differences. In many cases, young workers are still in school, with part-time jobs that require working onsite.

The relatively high share of older Californians (those age 65 and above) working remotely suggests that some may be delaying retirement because of the availability and convenience of remote work. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of older adults who remained in the labor force and commuted to work declined by 18,000 while the number who worked from home increased by 106,000.

Differences by gender are relatively small. Women are slightly more likely to work remotely than men (21% and 18% respectively in 2021–2022). These differences are a bit larger for families with young children (age 4 or less), with 24% of mothers working remotely compared to 19% of fathers. These shares grow substantially when we add education to the mix: among college-educated parents with young children, more than one-third of women (36%) and men (34%) work from home—the largest share of remote workers in California.

Like many other job benefits, remote work is more commonly available to economically and educationally advantaged workers. This means that pre-pandemic differences in job quality have widened with the advent of remote work. Occupations that lend themselves to remote work are experiencing greater job growth than those that don’t—perhaps reflecting the ability of workers to successfully seek out this benefit during a time of low unemployment.


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