October 20, 2004
BYLINE: Andrea Coombes
The one-minute commute
U.S. Census: Home-based work force grows 23 percent
If you're reading this as you work from home, you're not alone
-- and more of your neighbors are likely doing the same. The
number of nearly full-time home-based workers, both telecommuters
and small-business owners, rose sharply in the past decade,
likely as a result of advances in technology, the U.S. Census
Bureau reported Wednesday.
Americans working from home three days a week or more rose
23 percent over the decade ending in 2000, according to a new
analysis of a census question asking Americans how they commute
About 4.2 million people worked almost full-time from home
in 2000, up from 3.4 million in 1990. The number of home-based
workers grew at a rate nearly double the 12 percent growth rate
of the overall work force in that time.
"In the last couple of decades there's been a growth in technology
which has allowed people to do more traditional office jobs
at home, rather than in a traditional office setting," said
Clara Reschovsky, a Census Bureau demographer. "We're going
on the assumption that is what allowed the increase to happen."
From 1960 to 1970, a decline in family farms helped drive
a 42 percent drop in at-home workers. The decade spanning 1970
to 1980 saw a further 19 percent drop, but then things turned
around, with a 56 percent gain in the number of at-home workers
through the 1980s, followed by the 23 percent gain in the 1990s.
In 2000, more than 31 percent of at-home workers were company
employees, while about 46 percent were self-employed in an unincorporated
business. Another 12 percent were self-employed in an incorporated
company. Fifty-three percent of the at-home workers were women.
A 'bit of change' since 2000 means many more at-home workers
The recession may well have prompted more people to start home-based
businesses, plus additional technological advances mean even
more striking growth in the number of at-home workers from 2000
to the present. "It's fair to say there has been a bit of change
in that time period," said Robert Smith, Jr., executive director
of the International Telework Association and Council, or ITAC.
"When you think just of the changes in technology, with broadband
being more accessible in the home, we're finding that has changed
quite importantly the dynamics of working at home. It provides
the home worker with many of the same tools at home that they
could have at their employers' office," Smith said.
Plus, more workers now can access their work computer's desktop
from anywhere, he said. The development of "secure capabilities
to access your employer's computer system has really changed
the dynamics of all this."
The number of telecommuters working from home "almost every
day" rose to more than 12 million this year, from almost 9 million
last year, according to a survey released last month by ITAC
and The Dieringer Research Group.
The ITAC survey also found more than 8 million teleworkers
used broadband at home, an 84 percent rise from the 4.4 million
who did so last year.
Also, the Census survey focuses on Americans who work three
days a week or more at home, thus overlooking the many who telecommute
The number of telecommuters working from home during business
hours "at least one day a month" rose to 24 million, from 23.5
million last year, according to the ITAC survey.