COVID-19's Impact on Households: Who's Working From Home?

Jennifer Pullen, Senior Research Economist

Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic households continue to struggle with the economic impact. The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey has provided the country with a weekly look at how households are faring. The survey includes information about employment status, food security, housing, physical and mental health, ability to access health care, and educational disruptions for households. Previously the MAP Dashboard explored data through the end of October on “How are Households Faring the Coronavirus Pandemic”. This article provides an update to some of the data presented in that article, while also exploring the characteristics of those that are working from home during the pandemic. 

In Arizona during the week of January 20th, nearly 24% of adults expected that someone in their household would have a loss of employment income in the next four weeks. That was down from a high of 37.7% in the middle of July and slightly lower than the national rate. The overall trend for the state of Arizona and the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was consistent with the nation. The most recent weeks show a slight decline in the expected loss in employment income (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Expected Loss in Employment Income

In 2019, 6.5% of those employed worked from home in Arizona. That increased slightly for the Phoenix MSA to 7.0%, while Tucson’s work from home rate was 5.4%. When exploring work from home rates for Tucson’s peer metros before the pandemic, Austin had the highest rate at 8.8% while Denver followed at 8.5%. El Paso and Las Vegas posted the lowest work from home rates in 2019 at 3.5% and 4.2% respectively. To explore the work from home rate prior to the pandemic visit the Transportation to Work indicator.

The percentage of those working from home skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic. The Household Pulse Survey began tracking telework (work from home) data during phase two. According to the Household Pulse Survey, the percentage of adults that live in a household where at least one adult has substituted some or all of their typical in-person work for telework has hovered around 35% for the U.S. and state of Arizona.

Telework rates vary among the western states with Nevada reporting the lowest rate of 31.2% the week of January 20th. Utah reported the highest rate of adults that were working from home at least some of the time at 47.8%. Arizona’s rate was up slightly from the previous week at 38.8%, while 43.2% of households in Phoenix reported working from home. Figure 2 highlights the percent of adults who worked from home at least some of the time for the western states. The national rate for the week of January 20th was 38.6%.

Figure 2: Share of Adults Working From Home (Week of 01/20/2021)

The Household Pulse Survey includes select characteristic data for those that worked from home. Of the households sampled that were between the ages of 18-24, 44.2% reported working from home. The work from home rate increased slightly for the 25-39 age group to 47.0% but declined for each subsequent age group. The 65 and over age group reported a work from home rate of 17.9% (Figure 3). The lower rate is likely due to an increase in the number of retirees in the older age groups. This age group reported “no change in work” at a much higher frequency than the younger age groups.

Figure 3: Adults Working From Home by Age (Week of 01/20/2021)

Households with higher income and educational attainment levels reported a larger percentage of those working from home. Figure 4 illustrates the share of those at each income level that worked from home at least some of the time during the week of January 20th. In Arizona, those in the $100,000 and higher income levels report significantly higher work from home rates. This trend holds for both the Phoenix MSA and the nation.

Figure 4: Adults Working From Home by Income (Week of 01/20/2021)

Income and educational level are often correlated. Therefore, given the results in Figure 4, it is not surprising that those with some college or a Bachelor’s degree or higher reported a higher rate of those working from home. Of those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, over 60% in the Phoenix MSA reported working from home the week of January 20th (Figure 5). That rate fell slightly for those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher nationally and throughout the state of Arizona.

Figure 5: Adults Working From Home by Level of Education (Week of 01/20/2021)

The Household Pulse Survey includes the teleworking rate by select race and ethnicity. In Arizona, teleworking (work from home) rates were fairly consistent across the different races and ethnicities ranging from 31.1% for those that were Black, not Hispanic to 37.2% for those that were White, not Hispanic. Nationally rates varied to a larger degree ranging from 29.0% for Hispanic or Latinos to 46.1% for those who reported their race as Asian, not Hispanic (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Adults Working From Home by Race & Ethnicity (Week of 01/20/2021)

Across the nation and in Arizona during the week of January 20th over 34% of adults found it difficult to pay for usual household expenses. That was up slightly from the MAP article “Taking Our Economic Pulse” that reviewed the data from the end of October. Across the western U.S., households in Texas reported the largest share of those finding it difficult to pay for normal household expenses at 42.4%, followed by Nevada and California which were just over 40%. In Arizona, 34.5% of households reported difficulty with paying for normal expenses, which was consistent with the nation (Figure 7). In the Phoenix MSA, the percent of households reporting difficulty paying for normal expenses was close to the state rate at 33.0%.

Figure 7: Share of Adults Finding it Difficult to Pay Normal Household Expenses (Week of 01/20/2021)

The MAP Dashboard will continue to update the weekly data provided by the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Stay tuned to the MAP for an in-depth review of how the coronavirus has impacted education in Arizona and throughout the western U.S.

The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey includes weekly data over three phases to measure the pandemic’s impact on households over time. The first phase of the survey included data from April 23rd through July 21st, the second phase began on August 21st and ended on October 26th, and the third phase began on October 28th and will end at the beginning of January. The Household Pulse Survey includes data at the state-level and for select metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). Data for Tucson are not available