Discussion Paper

What Drives Telecommuting? The Relative Impact of Worker Demographics, Employer Characteristics, and Job Types

Oct 19, 2006 | Margaret A. Walls, Elena A. Safirova, Yi Jiang


We analyze a 2002 survey of Southern California residents to evaluate the relative importance of factors that affect workers’ propensity to telecommute and telecommuting frequency. The survey collected a wealth of individual demographic information as well as job type, industry, and employer characteristics from about 5,000 residents. In agreement with previous studies, we find that the propensity to telecommute is increasing with worker age and educational attainment. At the same time, we conclude that the propensity to telecommute depends to a large extent on a worker’s job characteristics and that the quantitative effects of job characteristics are at least as important as demographic factors. We also study what factors affect telecommuting frequency based on a one-week commuting diary of the telecommuters in the survey. The industry and occupation categories that play a significant role in affecting propensity to telecommute do not have similar effects on telecommuting frequency. On the contrary, some other job-related factors show substantial influences.