Discussion Paper

Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in Commuting for Work Following COVID-19


Abstract: The introduction of numerous social distancing policies across the United States, combined with voluntary pullbacks in activity as responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, resulted in differences emerging in the types of work that were done from home and those that were not. Workers at businesses more likely to require in-person work—for example, some, but not all, workers in healthcare, retail, agriculture and construction—continued to come in on a regular basis. In contrast, workers in many other businesses, such as IT and finance, were generally better able to switch to working from home rather than commuting daily to work. In this post, we aim to understand whether following the onset of the pandemic there was a wedge in the incidence of commuting for work across income and race. And how did this difference, if any, change as the economy slowly recovered? We take advantage of a unique data source, SafeGraph cell phone data, to identify workers who continued to commute to work in low income versus higher income and majority-minority (MM) versus other counties.

Keywords: essential worker; work from home; COVID-19; full time; part time;

JEL Classification: E24; E3; I14; J20;

Access Documents

Authors

Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Liberty Street Economics

Publication Date: 2021-02-09

Number: 20210209b