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What Have We Learned from a Recent Survey of Teleworkers? Evaluating the 2002 SCAG Survey

By Margaret Walls and Elena Safirova


In this paper, we analyze the 2002 Telework Survey conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Being a relatively recent and large dataset, the survey captures the current state of telecommuting, covering the entire region with a population of 17 million residents, and is not biased by telecommuting policies of particular employees. The survey also distinguishes telecommuters from home-based business owners and therefore provides a more accurate account of the number of telecommuters. Our analysis focuses on the role of demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity, household income, presence of children in the household and household size affect the workers’ propensity to telecommute. We also look into the distribution of telecommuters across industries, occupations, and firms of various sizes and observe how professional experience and job tenure impact telecommuting probability. Finally, we analyze telecommuting frequency and how it effects the reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and gather perceptions of employees who currently don’t work at home. In general, the survey confirms the major factors contributing to telecommuting, such as higher educational level and more professional experience, as well as a longer tenure with the company and one’s supervisor. At the same time, the analysis shows that telecommuters are more likely to be male and have smaller households than nontelecommuters. This is surprising given the findings from previous studies. The survey also shows that as many as one-third of telecommuters are working on-site and telecommuting on the same day and therefore eroding VMT reduction from telecommuting. Finally, the data on workers who currently don’t telecommute reveal a disconnect between workers desire and ability to telecommute, since less-educated workers are more enthusiastic about working at home than more educated ones while the latter are more likely to be able to elecommute. This discussion paper is one in a series of four RFF papers on telecommuting published in December 2004. In discussion paper 04-42, Walls and Nelson analyze data from five pilot cities enrolled in the “ecommute” program. In 04-44, Walls and Safirova review the empirical literature on telecommuting with a focus on trip reduction impacts. Finally, in 04-45, Nelson presents an assessment of institutional and regulatory barriers to using telecommuting in a mobile source emissions trading program. The studies by RFF are part of a larger report on the ecommute program completed by the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.telecommuting, SCAG survey

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  2. (2003). Telework Study, draft final report.
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  4. (1996). Using Travel Diary Data to Estimate the Emissions Impacts of Transportation Strategies: The Puget Sound Telecommuting Demonstration Project.

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