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Since March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused record numbers of Americans to transition to remote work. As COVID cases have surged across the country, recent CDC guidelines suggest that workers should be allowed to work remotely if they can. While many jobs are suitable to a remote work environment, most are not. Using data from the Census Bureau as well as a recent study by University of Chicago researchers, about 31 percent of U.S. workers are employed in remote-friendly jobs, but this varies substantially on a geographic level. Additionally, not everyone who works in an occupation that can be performed remotely is well positioned to do so. Differences in computer and high-speed internet access, as well as available space in the household, all impact an individual’s preparedness for remote work.
Working from home typically requires both a computer and a high-speed internet connection. According to data from the Census Bureau, nearly a quarter of U.S. households don’t own a computer and close to 30 percent lack broadband internet, such as cable, fiber optic, or DSL. Not surprisingly, owning a computer and having high-speed internet tend to go hand in hand. At the state level, states where more households own computers are also home to more households with high-speed internet. On a regional level, the South is less prepared to work from home—Southern states tend to have lower rates of home computer ownership and fewer households with broadband internet.