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White and Higher-Income Workers Most Prevalent Among Home-Based Workers

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The number of home-based workers increased across all races and ethnic groups — especially among high-income workers — between 2019 and 2021, a time when working from home was encouraged because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A U.S. Census Bureau report released today shows that while White home-based workers more than doubled their numbers and remained the largest single group in the home-based workforce, the number of Black or African American, Asian and Hispanic or Latino individuals working from home also grew substantially during this time period.

We will refer to Black or African American as Black, and Hispanic or Latino as Hispanic for the remainder of this article. Hispanic origin and race codes were updated in 2020, so estimates between 2019 and 2021 are not directly comparable.

The report uses 2019 and 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates.

Workers of all income levels were more likely to work from home in 2021 than in 2019, with higher earners the most likely to do so.

The data show that from 2019 to 2021, the number of:

  • White home-based workers increased from 7.2 million to 18.4 million.
  • Black home-based workers increased from 0.7 million to 2.6 million.
  • Asian home-based workers increased from 0.5 million to 2.6 million.
  • Workers reporting Two or More Races increased markedly, from 0.2 million to 2.6 million.
  • Hispanic and non-Hispanic home-based workers roughly tripled from 1.1 million to 3.2 million and from 7.9 million to 24.3 million, respectively.

White Workers Majority of Home-Based Workers

In 2021, White workers made up 63% of the total U.S. working population but 67% of the home-based workforce (Figure 2).

Asian workers were also overrepresented, making up 6% of all workers but 10% of the home-based workforce.

Black workers made up 11% of all workers but 10% of home-based workers in 2021. Hispanic origin workers made up 18% of all workers and just 12% of home-based workers. 

Highest Income Workers Most Likely to Work from Home

Workers of all income levels were more likely to work from home in 2021 than in 2019, with higher earners the most likely to do so.

For workers in the first income decile (the lowest paid 10% of all workers), the percentage working from home doubled from 6% in 2019 to 12% in 2021. In the 10th or highest income decile, the percentage working from home more than tripled from 11% to 38%. 

Higher Income Workers Disproportionately White

The racial composition of the workforce also varied by income, with White workers most prevalent among higher income groups.

White workers made up the majority of each income decile but were underrepresented at the bottom end of the income distribution and overrepresented at the top (Figure 4). Black workers, on the other hand, were overrepresented at the bottom end of the income distribution and underrepresented at the top. 

Home-Based Workers Not Representative of U.S. Workforce

Racial and ethnic differences in U.S. commuting patterns were evident before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the rapid expansion of home-based work provides another opportunity to understand how certain populations were affected differently.

Workers of all race and ethnic groups worked from home in higher numbers in 2021 than in 2019. White workers were the most likely to work from home; they were also overrepresented among the highest-earning workers.

Further analysis of topics like industry, occupation, transportation access and workplace flexibility may provide further insight into the racial and ethnic makeup of the home-based workforce. 

Michael Burrows and Charlynn Burd are survey statisticians in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

Brian McKenzie is chief of the Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division. 


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Page Last Revised - April 3, 2023
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