This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

July 1, 1998:

Dramatic Increases in At-Home Workers

A Census Bureau bulletin reports a dramatic reversal in the proportion of people who work at home. Between 1960 and 1980 we saw a substantial decline in the number of family farmers. At the same time, there was a growing tendency of solo professionals such as doctors and lawyers to leave their home offices and join group practices.

The number of workers who worked from home dropped from 4,663,000 in 1960 to 2,685,000 in 1970 and to 2,178,000 in 1980. The 1990 numbers showed a jump to 3,406,000 and the Bureau acknowledges that their numbers are probably significantly low. The error stems from the specific questions that are asked during the Census Bureau’s surveys.

A separate Census survey, Characteristics of Business Owners, reports that nearly half the 17 million small businesses in the US in 1992 were home-based. Most of these businesses are not full-time endeavors, however, so earnings are understandably low. Most who work at home were self-employed in the 1990 count. Employment in service industries accounted for 46 percent of home-based workers, while about 18 percent were in agricultural, forestry, or fishing industries. Earnings were also lower, with only three percent earning more than $75,000 a year.

Getting accurate numbers in this burgeoning sector of our economy is difficult. Home-based business owners, telecommuters, and other people who work at home don’t show up on a lot of the surveys and research. We won’t have updated information from the Census Bureau until long after the 2000 count is completed, and even that accuracy may be in question.

It is clear that the trend is that home-based workers will increase substantially—from the 1990 to 2000 Census counts . . . and beyond. We estimate that the numbers have climbed far beyond 15 million. A 1997 survey prepared for Telecommute America estimates that the number of Americans "telecommuting" via computer from their homes to their businesses rose from about 4 million in 1990 to approximately 11 million in 1997. Home based workers will increase substantially—from the 1990 to 2000 Census counts . . . and beyond. We estimate that the numbers have climbed far beyond 15 million. A 1997 survey prepared for Telecommute America estimates that the number of Americans "telecommuting" via computer from their homes to their businesses rose from about 4 million in 1990 to approximately 11 million in 1997.


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