Shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19, the Census Bureau launched a vast initiative to measure the effects of the disease on Americans. It is called the Household Pulse Survey. So far, the results have been released in three phases, which began with the first study that was in the field starting April 23, 2020. The data is released by week.
Each weekly report actually covers about two weeks of information gathered by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies. Among the questions asked each week is whether any adult in the respondent’s household “teleworks,” which is the study’s term for working from home or a site other than the office. Telework, to qualify, must be due to needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be done for “some” or “all” of their work time.
Current data also covers Week 26 and includes the results of questions about income loss, the percentage of Americans who work from home, food scarcity, food insecurity, chances of eviction or foreclosure, difficulty in paying household expenses, whether people have received a COVID-19 vaccine and whether those not vaccinated plan to be.
The work is done in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Center for Education Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Social Security Administration and USDA Economic Research Service.
Data come from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and America’s largest metro areas.
There have been several major studies about the extent to which people work from home. The wide range of outcomes happens, to some extent, because of the wording of the question. Pew Research found that 71% of people in its poll, done in December, currently were working from home. A Stanford study, done much earlier, in June found that 42% of people worked full time from home. It also found that, from its sample, 33% were not working.
The Household Pulse Survey shows that the U.S. figure for telework was 38.8%. The state with the highest number was Utah at 52.7%. Higher still, the number for the District of Columbia was 61.8%. Massachusetts (49.5%) and Maryland (50.2%) followed Utah.
The Household Pulse Survey does not draw a relationship between telework and income. However, the District of Columbia’s residents have a higher median household income than any of the states do. Maryland is first among all states, and Massachusetts is fourth.
The state with the lowest telework percentage is Mississippi at 23.7%, followed by Wyoming (26.0%), West Virginia (26.3%) and North Dakota (26.3%). These states tend to have low median household incomes.
Among cities, the percentage of people who fall into the telework category is led by Washington, D.C., at 58.7%, then Seattle at 55.7% and San Francisco at 55.1%.