The number of Southern Californians primarily working from home more than tripled between 2019 and 2021 – a “dramatic and universal” surge that has significantly impacted the commuting landscape across the region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new analysis of U.S. Census data shows.
Using results from the just-released 2021 American Community Survey (ACS), researchers from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) reported that 19% of employees in the six-county SCAG region identified as “working from home” – up from 4% in 2006 and 6% in 2019. The region’s work-at-home share is 1.5% higher than the U.S. average, which also tripled during the 2019-2021 timeframe.
Los Angeles County led the way regionally, with 22.2% of employees working from home, followed by Orange County (20.9%). Counties in the Inland Empire recorded far lower rates (13.7% in San Bernardino County and 13.6% in Riverside County).
While work-from-home increased, public transit use for work trips fell sharply, the SCAG analysis showed. Just 2.2% of workers across the region reported using public transit in 2021, down from 3.8% in 2019. In L.A. County, the share of workers using public transit – 3.5% in 2021 – is now half of its 2012 peak.
Meanwhile, single-occupancy commuting also fell in the region, from 76% in 2019 to 65.8% in 2021. This follows a gradual increase in single-occupancy commuting throughout much of the past decade.
“Clearly, COVID changed the way many businesses operate. We are starting to see in very real terms how having more employees work from home is impacting commuting patterns across our region, state and country,” said Kome Ajise, SCAG Executive Director. “We believe this kind of enhanced data analysis will open up new opportunities for our region and the communities we serve to better plan for the future.”
SCAG, the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, has made data access a major priority as part of its mission to empower local jurisdictions to work toward regional solutions.
Among the other highlights of SCAG’s ACS assessment:
- College education rates continued to increase across the region. Among Southern California adults over the age of 25, 33.6% have at least a bachelor’s degree, up from 26.8% in 2006.
- The region’s real median household income of $87,547 is well above its Great Recession low point of $71,450. However, it has increased only 9.3% in real dollars since 2006, well below the rest of California which increased by 16.8%.
- Despite the pandemic, labor force participation across the SCAG region fell only slightly from 64.1% in 2019 to 63.6 % in 2021.
- The SCAG region skews slightly younger than the rest of the state. The share of population age 65 and over across the six counties was 14.6% in 2021. In San Bernardino County, 12.1% of the population was 65 or older. Ventura County was at the other extreme – at 16.7%.
- While the share of people who moved didn’t change substantially, the share of Southern California movers who crossed state lines increased from 13.7% in 2019 to 17.9% in 2021.
Read SCAG’s full analyses in A First Look at Post-COVID Southern California. The Census Bureau is set to release additional ACS statistics over the next few months, including 2021 ACS 1-year Public Use Microsample (PUMS) estimates in October and 2017-2021 ACS 5-year estimates in December. For more information on the topics included in the ACS, ranging from educational attainment to computer use, visit the Subjects Included in the Survey page. To access the full set of statistics released today, visit data.census.gov.