About 8.1 percent of U.S. workers have commutes of 60 minutes or longer, 4.3 percent work from home, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers had “megacommutes” of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles. The average one-way daily commute for workers across the country is 25.5 minutes, and one in four commuters leave their county to work.
These figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which provides local statistics on a variety of topics for even the smallest communities.
According to Out-of-State and Long Commutes: 2011, 23.0 percent of workers with long commutes (60 minutes or more) use public transit, compared with 5.3 percent for all workers. Only 61.1 percent of workers with long commutes drove to work alone, compared with 79.9 percent for all workers who worked outside the home.
“The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes. For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician and author of the brief.
Rail travel accounted for 11.8 percent of workers with long commutes, and other forms of public transportation accounted for 11.2 percent.
Workers who live in New York state show the highest rate of long commutes at 16.2 percent, followed by Maryland and New Jersey at 14.8 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. The estimates for Maryland and New Jersey are not statistically different from each other. These states and several others with high rates of long commutes contain or are adjacent to large metropolitan areas.
Based on the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 586,805 full-time workers are mega commuters — one in 122 of full-time workers. Mega commuters were more likely to be male, older, married, make a higher salary, and have a spouse who does not work. Of the total mega commutes, 75.4 percent were male and 24.6 percent women. Mega commuters were also more likely to depart for work before 6 a.m. Metro areas with large populations tend to attract large flows of mega commuters, according to Mega Commuting in the U.S.
Commuting Across County Lines
More than a fourth of all U.S. workers commute outside the county where they live, according to County-to-County Commuting Flows: 2006-2010, a report on commutes between counties. About 27.4 percent of all U.S. workers traveled outside the county where they live for work during a typical week, compared with 26.7 percent in 2000.
[See the Commuting Flows in Your County]
Small counties and county equivalents dominate the list of counties with the highest percentage of workers commuting outside the county where they live. Several of these counties are in Virginia or Georgia within close proximity to metro areas such as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta: including Manassas Park, Va. (91.2 percent), Echols County, Ga. (85.3 percent), Storey County, Ga. (84.6 percent), Camden County, N.C. (83.2 percent), Long County, Ga. (82.1 percent), Carroll County, Miss. (81.8 percent), and Falls Church, Va. (81.8 percent). Because of the margins of error, these percentages are not statistically different from several of the others.
Three counties in the New York City metropolitan area had the highest number of commuters leaving the county where they live for another county. They include workers living in Kings County (Brooklyn), Queens County (Queens) and Bronx County (The Bronx) traveling to New York County (Manhattan) for work.
Workers commuting from Los Angeles County to Orange County, and from Orange County to Los Angeles County in California represented the fourth and fifth largest flows of commuters across county lines, followed by three combinations in the Houston or Dallas metro areas in Texas.
The Census Bureau also examined workers who commute across state lines.
In five states and the District of Columbia, one in 10 workers lived in a different state, according to the Out-of-State and Long Commutes: 2011 brief. Among these are several small Eastern states, including Delaware (14.8 percent), Rhode Island (12.8 percent), New Hampshire (10.8 percent) and West Virginia (10.0 percent). North Dakota also showed a high rate of workers who live in a different state at 11.6 percent. The percentages for New Hampshire and North Dakota are not statistically different from each other.
Among all workers in the District of Columbia, 72.4 percent live in a different state. Workers from just two states, Maryland and Virginia, accounted for 70.4 percent who work in the District of Columbia.
“The District of Columbia is a job center for all of its adjoining counties in Maryland and Virginia,” McKenzie said. “No other state’s workforce exceeded 20.0 percent in its rate of out-of-state commuters.”
New Hampshire (17.0), Delaware (16.4), Rhode Island (15.6), New Jersey (14.0) and West Virginia (12.1) also had high percentages of residents leaving the state for work. The percentage for Delaware is not statistically different from the percentages of New Hampshire and Rode Island.
The District of Columbia also had the highest rate of residents traveling across state lines to work at 25.2 percent, followed by Maryland at 18.3 percent. About 12.0 percent of Maryland workers commute to the District of Columbia, and about 13.0 percent of workers living in the nation’s capital commute to Maryland.
The Census Bureau is also releasing an infographic that provides a statistical snapshot about home-based workers in the United States. This infographic presents recent historical trends as well as economic and social characteristics of people working from home at least one day per week. The infographic looks at statistics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the American Community Survey. Learn more about home-based workers.