More people are working from home in the Austin area than any other major U.S. cities, according to recently-released Census Bureau data.
Nearly 9 percent of people ages 16 and up with jobs in the Austin area telecommute, the data shows. The national average is 5 percent.
In fact, Austin ranks highest for percentage of people who work from home among the country’s top 50 metro areas, beating out cities that are notorious for their traffic problems, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Atlanta.
So what’s up with Austin? Why do so many people work from home here?
Kara Kockelman, an engineering professor at the University of Texas, offered some insights into why Austin rose to the top of the list:
Austin has a lot of highly educated people, and those people tend to work in white-collar professional jobs where it’s possible to work from home. You can’t work from home if you’re a cashier at Taco Bell. But you sometimes can if you’re a lawyer.
Our city also has a large number of people who work in the tech industry, which is known for jobs that are tethered to a computer and could be done virtually anywhere. There are roughly 120,000 people who work in Austin’s tech industry.
Census data shows that about 40 percent of Austin’s households have at least two workers.
Kockelman said when there are two workers in a household, one person tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to commute times. And that person tends to work from home more often.
EMPLOYERS ON THE PERIPHERY
While there are certainly many major employers clustered downtown, such as the state of Texas, there are also many large employers with campuses on Austin’s periphery, such as Dell Technologies in Round Rock.
Speaking of Dell. It’s one of Austin’s largest private employers, at around 12,000 employees in the Central Texas area. And Dell has a policy encouraging people to work from home, with a goal of 50 percent of the workforce telecommuting by 2020.
And lastly, there’s the Austin traffic that we all know and hate.
Though Austin’s traffic is apparently not that bad compared to cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles, try telling that to the person who is crawling along Interstate 35 at 9 p.m. on a Friday.
It’s also interesting to look at where Austin’s telecommuters live. Here’s what that looks like:
This fits in pretty neatly with what Kockelman said about why Austin has so many telecommuters.
West Austin, which tends to be wealthier, with residents who have higher education levels, also is home to more people who telecommute.
Though you see pockets of telecommuters on Austin’s periphery, the biggest chunks of telecommuters curiously tend to live close to downtown, an indication that people work from home for reasons beyond the location of their home and job.
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