To evaluate the economic impact of “social distancing,” one must determine how many jobs can be performed at home, what share of total wages are paid to such jobs, and how the scope of working from home varies across cities and industries. By analyzing surveys about the nature of people’s jobs, the authors classified whether that work could be performed at home. The authors then merged these job classifications with information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the prevalence of each occupation in the aggregate, as well as in particular metropolitan areas and industries.
This analysis reveals that 37% of US jobs can plausibly be performed at home. Assuming all occupations involve the same hours of work, these jobs account for 46% of all wages (occupations that can be performed at home generally earn more). As the accompanying map indicates, there is significant variation across cities. For example, 40% or more of jobs in San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, DC, can be performed at home, compared with fewer than 30% in Fort Myers, Grand Rapids, and Las Vegas. There are also large differences across industries. A large majority of jobs in finance, corporate management, and professional and scientific services can be performed at home, whereas very few jobs in agriculture, hotels, or restaurants can do so.