Women Made Up Majority of Home-Based Workers During Pandemic

Women, already the majority of home-based workers in 2019, increased to a slightly larger share of a growing home-based U.S. workforce in 2021, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working from home was among the safety measures adopted during the COVID-19 public health emergency (which has since been lifted) to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus. As a result, the percentage of home-based workers in the United States tripled from 5.7% of all workers in 2019 to 17.9% in 2021 — an increase of nearly 19 million workers, according to American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year data.

This shift has had social and economic impacts including on caregiving roles, actual or perceived workplace productivity, professional advancement opportunities and commuting burden.

In 2021, the majority (52.8%) of workers were men but women made up the majority (51.4%) of home-based workers. 

Despite the increase in home-based workers, the share of women who worked from home each year in 2019 and 2021 was broadly similar. 

Working from Home More Common in Some Occupations

Certain occupations may lend themselves to home-based work more than others. ACS data show a strong relationship between occupation (organized into five groups for this analysis) and the percentage of workers who worked from home.

In 2019, a relatively small percentage worked from home in every occupation group but the highest share was in management, business, science and arts occupations like insurance underwriters, mental health counselors and marketing managers.

The percentage of home-based workers rose for each occupation in 2021 but the biggest share (about 28%) of home-based workers was still in management, business, science and arts occupations.

In both 2019 and 2021, production, transportation and material moving occupations (bakers, machinists and taxi drivers) had the lowest percentage of home-based workers (2.3% and 5.3%, respectively).

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