Wyoming and Nevada are the states most likely to be negatively impacted by COVID-19 as a result of stay-at-home orders and the work-at-home trend that have accompanied the pandemic, according to COVID-19 work at home research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity.
Researchers compared conditions in the 50 states by looking at two factors. One factor was the percentage of workers that can work from home (which is based, in part, on whether they have broadband that is sufficiently fast and affordable). The other factor was the percentage of people working in industries or professions that have been most negatively impacted by COVID-19.
One quarter or less of workers in Nevada and Wyoming can work from home, and more than 60% of people in those states work in industries or professions that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The authors note that hospitality and tourism have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and are important sectors in both states.
The states least likely to suffer from the double whammy of COVID-19 and the work at home trend are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. Between 29% and 30% of people in all five states can work from home, and no more than 47% are in industries or professions that have seen the most negative COVID-19 impact.
As researchers put it: “These states have significant concentrations of financial services, information services, information technology and other knowledge-based clusters, which are more amenable to remote working.”
The report cautions, however, that “even in communities that are very well positioned to prosper in a remote working environment, 12% of households have no internet access.”
This could be a serious concern as the COVID-19 pandemic may create a long-term shift toward work at home, the researchers suggest.
COVID-19 Work at Home Research: The Long-Term Impact
The researchers recommend short-term responses such as including hotspot capability in cellular data plans to increase household access to the internet and creating partnerships with school systems and businesses to loan out technology such as laptops and other devices to help communities and households dependent on cellular data to get internet access.
In the long term, the researchers recommend investing further in broadband access at the national and state levels and offering formula stipends for internet service subscriptions. According to the report, the latter calculation “could look similar to determining the free and reduced lunch rate for lower economic status students.”
The new COVID-19 work at home research, titled “The Digital Divide and the Pandemic: Working from Home and Broadband and Internet Access,” is similar to previous research from Purdue University that found that 10% of U.S. counties were highly vulnerable to the shift to telework during COVID-19 and 27.7% were moderately vulnerable.