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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

    (University of California, Davis)

  • Ilan Salomon

    (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

  • Sangho Choo

    (University of California, Davis)

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.

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.?," Labor and Demography 0508011, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0508011
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 26
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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. Joanne Pratt, 2000. "Asking the right questions about telecommuting: Avoiding pitfalls in surveying homebased work," Transportation, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 99-116, February.
    3. Mokhtarian, Patricia L, 1991. "Defining Telecommuting," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt35c4q71r, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    4. 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.
    5. Handy, Susan & Mokhtarian, Patricia, 1996. "The Future of Telecommuting," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt5nm777c1, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    6. Patricia L. Mokhtarian, 1998. "A Synthetic Approach to Estimating the Impacts of Telecommuting on Travel," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 35(2), pages 215-241, February.
    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. Song, Moohoun & Orazem, Peter & Singh, Rajesh, 2006. "Broadband Access, Telecommuting and the Urban-Rural Digital Divide," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12495, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:kap:transp:v:45:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11116-017-9792-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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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    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics

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