Planet Money
12:56 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

How Americans Get To Work, In 2 Graphs

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 5:47 pm

More than ever, Americans are getting to work by driving alone.

As the graph above shows, the share of Americans driving to work rose sharply in the second half of the 20th century, as the nation became more suburban. The rate has been flat for the past few decades — but during that time the percentage of people who carpool fell (even as carpool lanes proliferated).

Today, only 5 percent of workers take public transportation, down from 11 percent in 1960; only 4 percent walk to work, down from 7 percent in 1960.

One surprising detail in the numbers: The share of workers who work at home is actually lower today than it was 50 years ago (4 percent today versus 7 percent in 1960). A 1998 Census report pointed to "the steep decline in the number of family farmers and the growing tendency of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, to leave their home and join group practices resulted in a loss each decade of the number of at-home workers." The share of people working at home has been rising for the past few decades, as telecommuting has become more popular, but the rise hasn't been nearly enough to make up for the earlier decline.

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