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Measuring the Measurable: Why can’t we Agree on the Number of Telecommuters in the U.S.?

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  • Patricia Mokhtarian

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  • Ilan Salomon

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  • Sangho Choo

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Abstract

Using telecommuting as a case study, we demonstrate that definitions, measurement instruments, sampling and sometimes vested interests affect the quality and utility even of seemingly objective and “measurable” data. Little consensus exists with respect to the definition of telecommuting, or to possible distinctions from related terms such as teleworking. Such a consensus is unlikely, since the “best” definition of telecommuting depends on one’s point of reference and purpose. However, differing definitions confound efforts to measure the amount of telecommuting and how it is changing over time. This paper evaluates estimates of the amounts of telecommuting occurring in the U. S. obtained from several different sources: the U. S. Census, the American Housing Survey, several Work at Home supplements to the Current Population Survey, a series of market research surveys, and the trade association-sponsored Telework America surveys. Many of the issues raised here are transferable to other contexts, and indirectly serve as suggestions for improving data collection in the future.
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Suggested Citation

  • Patricia Mokhtarian & Ilan Salomon & Sangho Choo, 2005. "Measuring the Measurable: Why can’t we Agree on the Number of Telecommuters in the U.S.?," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 423-452, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:qualqt:v:39:y:2005:i:4:p:423-452
    DOI: 10.1007/s11135-004-6790-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Skamris, Mette K. & Flyvbjerg, Bent, 1997. "Inaccuracy of traffic forecasts and cost estimates on large transport projects," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 141-146, July.
    2. Sangho Choo & Patricia Mokhtarian & Ilan Salomon, 2005. "Does telecommuting reduce vehicle-miles traveled? An aggregate time series analysis for the U.S," Transportation, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 37-64, January.
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    7. Mokhtarian, Patricia L & Salomon, Ilan & Choo, Sangho, 2004. "Data and Measurement Issues in Transportation, With Telecommuting as a Case Study," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt9pt8s9jv, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
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    Cited by:

    1. Duco Vos & Evert Meijers & Maarten Ham, 2018. "Working from home and the willingness to accept a longer commute," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 61(2), pages 375-398, September.
    2. Singh, Rajesh & Orazem, Peter F. & Song, Moohoun, 2006. "Broadband Access, Telecommuting and the Urban-Rural Digital Divide," Working Papers 18214, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    3. Becky P. Y. Loo & Bo Wang, 2018. "Factors associated with home-based e-working and e-shopping in Nanjing, China," Transportation, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 365-384, March.
    4. Dal Fiore, Filippo & Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Salomon, Ilan & Singer, Matan E., 2014. "“Nomads at last”? A set of perspectives on how mobile technology may affect travel," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 97-106.
    5. Sergejs Gubins & Jos Ommeren & Thomas Graaff, 2019. "Does new information technology change commuting behavior?," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 62(1), pages 187-210, February.
    6. Tang, Wei & Mokhtarian, Patricia & Handy, Susan, 2008. "The Role of Neighborhood Characteristics in the Adoption and Frequency of Working at Home: Empirical Evidence from Northern California," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt9rg8w9c4, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    7. Georges A. Tanguay & Ugo Lachapelle, 2019. "Potential Impacts of Telecommuting on Transportation Behaviours, Health and Hours Worked in Québec," CIRANO Project Reports 2019rp-07, CIRANO.
    8. Ben-Elia, Eran & Alexander, Bayarma & Hubers, Christa & Ettema, Dick, 2014. "Activity fragmentation, ICT and travel: An exploratory Path Analysis of spatiotemporal interrelationships," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 56-74.
    9. Rotem-Mindali, Orit, 2010. "E-tail versus retail: The effects on shopping related travel empirical evidence from Israel," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 312-322, September.
    10. Bayarma Alexander & Martin Dijst & Dick Ettema, 2010. "Working from 9 to 6? An analysis of in-home and out-of-home working schedules," Transportation, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 505-523, May.

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