Research / White PaperApr 02, 2020

Characteristics of Workers in Low Work-From-Home and High Personal-Proximity Occupations

Simon Mongey, Alex Weinberg

We categorize occupations by a measure that captures the likelihood that jobs can be conducted from home (Dingel and Neiman, 2020), as well as a measure of low personal proximity in the workplace. The former relates to how well work can be done under social distancing policies, the latter relates to how quickly occupations might come back online. We then compare characteristics of workers in low work-from-home and high personal-proximity occupations. Relative to workers in high work-from-home occupations, workers in low work-from-home occupations are less likely to be white, have a college degree, or have employer provided healthcare, more likely to be in the bottom half of the income distribution, and more likely to rent their homes. These workers are less likely to have access to informal insurance channels: more likely to be single, and less likely to be born in the United States. They are also less likely to have had stable jobs: more likely to have been unemployed in the last year, less likely to be employed full-time, and less likely to be employed in large firms. Females are both more likely to be in high work-from-home occupations and more likely to work in high physical-proximity occupations, suggesting that the employment effects of broad social distancing policies on women may be less severe, but later integration into the economy may be more difficult.

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