The United States moved online and worked more from home as the pandemic raged | Health and fitness
By MIKE SCHNEIDER – Associated Press
In the first two years of the pandemic, the number of people working from home in the United States tripled, house values increased and the percentage of people who spent more than a third of their income on lease rose, according to survey results released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.
Providing the most detailed data yet on how life has changed in the United States under COVID-19, the bureau’s American Community Survey 1-year estimates for 2021 showed that the share of unmarried couples living together has increased, Americans have become more wired, and the percentage of people who identify as multiracial increased significantly. And in changes that seemed to directly reflect how the pandemic has upended people’s choices, fewer people have moved, preschool enrollment has plummeted and commuters using public transport have been cut in half.
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The release of the data offers the first reliable insight into life in the United States during the time of COVID-19, as the 1-year estimates from the 2020 survey were deemed unusable due to issues getting people to respond during the first months of the pandemic. That left a year-long data vacuum at a time when the pandemic has forced major changes to the way people live their lives.
The survey typically draws on responses from 3.5 million households to provide 11 billion estimates each year on travel times, internet access, family life, income, levels of education, disabilities, military service and employment. Estimates help determine how to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.
Response rates have improved significantly from 2020 to 2021, “so we’re confident about this year’s data,” said Mark Asiala, chief statistical design officer for the survey.
While the percentage of households of married couples remained stable over the two years at around 47%, the percentage of households with cohabiting unmarried couples rose to 7.2% in 2021 from 6.6% in 2019. Contrary to pop culture images of members of ‘a multigenerational family moving in together during the pandemic, the average household size actually shrunk from 2.6 to 2.5 people.
People also stayed put. Over 87% of respondents lived in their same home a year ago in 2021, up from 86% in 2019. America has become more connected as people have become more reliant on remote learning and work home. Households with a computer increased from 92.9% in 2019 to 95% in 2021, and Internet subscription services increased from 86% to 90% of households.
The jump in the number of people who identify as multiracial – from 3.4% in 2019 to 12.6% in 2021 – and a drop in the number of people who identify as single white – from 72% to 61.2% – coincided with Census Bureau changes in coding race and Hispanic responses. These adjustments were intended to capture more detailed written responses from participants. The period between investigations also overlapped with social justice protests following the 2020 killing of George Floyd, who was black, by a white Minneapolis police officer as well as attacks on Asian Americans. Experts say this has likely led some multiracial people who might previously have identified as one race to instead embrace all of their backgrounds.
“The pattern is strong evidence for the evolution of self-identity. It’s nothing new,” said Paul Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning and Asian American studies at UCLA. “Other research has shown that racial or ethnic identity can change even over a short period of time. For many, it’s contextual and situational. This is especially true for people of multiracial backgrounds.”
Estimates show the pandemic-related impact of closed theaters, closed theme parks and restaurants with limited seating on arts, entertainment and hospitality workers. Their number rose from 9.7% to 8.2% of the workforce, while other industries remained relatively stable. Those who were self-employed fell from 5.8% to 6.1%.
Housing demand increased in both years, with the percentage of vacant units falling from 12.1% to 10.3%. The median home value rose from $240,500 to $281,400. The percentage of people whose gross rent exceeded more than 30% of their income rose from 48.5% to 51%. Historically, tenants are considered to have rent encumbered if they pay more than that.
“The lack of housing that people can afford relative to the wages they receive is an ever-growing crisis,” said Allison Plyer, chief demographer at the New Orleans Data Center.
Home-to-work journeys have fallen from 27.6 minutes to 25.6 minutes, with the percentage of people working from home during a period of returns to work increasing from 5.7% in 2019 to almost 18% in 2021. than half of workers in the District of Columbia worked from home, the highest rate in the nation, while Mississippi had the lowest rate at 6.3% In both years, the percentage of workers working from home nationwide using public transport to get to work fell from 5% to 2.5%, as fears rose of catching the virus on buses and subways.
“Work and travel are central to American life, so the widespread adoption of working from home is a defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Census Bureau statistician Michael Burrows. “With the number of people working primarily from home tripling in just two years, the pandemic has had a very strong impact on the commuting landscape in the United States.”
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