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Remote work has become a way of life in greater Sacramento area, Sac State poll shows

A new poll from Sacramento State's Institute for Social Research has found that nearly half of Sacramento-area employees are working from home full time.

More than three years after the COVID pandemic disrupted work patterns, 43% of the Sacramento region’s workforce are doing their jobs remotely full time, data gathered by Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) shows.

The 2023 Livability Poll, fielded by ISR and Valley Vision, found notable income and racial differences among remote workers. White and Asian workers as well as higher earners are more likely to work remotely than people of color and those with lower incomes, the research shows.

People of color are “overrepresented” in jobs that require employees to show up in person, such as cooks and gardeners, and have fewer opportunities to work remotely, ISR Director Shannon Williams said. The research indicates that those workers also have more trouble with food and housing insecurity.

“The data mirror the demographics of different work sectors,” Williams said. “It underscores the fact that if you are a person who has privilege, you end up with advantages in all kinds of ways. When any sort of social or economic change occurs, it hits harder for people who have less of a buffer.”

This year’s poll, which tracks quality-of-life issues in the region, during the summer queried area residents about several topics, such as housing affordability, access to child care and mental health services, and public safety.

The scientifically valid survey data, gathered from about 3,000 residents of six counties in the region, is designed to inform policymakers about key issues.

“The Livability Poll is an important gauge of perceptions and experiences of quality-of-life issues across the region,” said Evan Schmidt, chief executive officer for Valley Vision, a nonprofit consultancy focused on economic, environmental, and social issues.

“We learned that while the Sacramento region is a great place to live, there are also significant challenges that reflect needed action as a region to overcome systemic inequities and create livable communities for all.”

“The data mirror the demographics of different work sectors. It underscores the fact that if you are a person who has privilege, you end up with advantages in all kinds of ways. When any sort of social or economic change occurs, it hits harder for people who have less of a buffer.” -- Shannon Williams, director of the Institute for Social Research

A large majority of poll respondents endorsed the Sacramento region as a good place to raise a family, pursue a career, and enjoy outdoor recreation. But a significant percentage of residents reported suffering from a lack of reliable access to affordable housing, food, and medical care. Respondents cited property crime and environmental issues, including air quality and wildfires, as major safety concerns in the region.

Among the findings:

  • Assets ranked most important to quality of life in the Sacramento region include outdoor spaces like parks and trails, recreational facilities, and events and festivals.
  • More than 70% of people polled said the region is a good place to grow up, raise a family, and pursue a career, but less than 50% rated it a good place to retire or purchase a home.
  • Respondents rated affordable housing, living wages, and quality education as issues most important to quality of life.
  • About a third of survey respondents reported that they lack access to needed elder care, child care, and mental health services.
  • Nearly 70% of respondents said they worry about property crime. More than 60% said they fear walking alone at night.
  • About 40% of respondents said they struggle to afford rent or mortgage.
  • 55% of Asian survey respondents and 51% of white respondents said they are able to work remotely, compared to 19% of Black respondents and 34% of people of other races.

Williams said she hopes that lawmakers and others with political clout find a way to support essential workers, including those who provide elder and child care. Those industries have reported significant shortages of workers in recent years.

“We really need these front-line people who are bagging our groceries, cutting our hair, and caring for our kids and seniors, and these are jobs that traditionally have not paid very well,” Williams said. “In order for them to keep things going, we are going to have to address that.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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