DC area ranks high for ‘untethered’ workers

The D.C. region has one of the largest shares of remote-friendly jobs among big cities. An ApartmentList report estimates 42.5% of jobs in the area could be done remotely, at least some of the time.

There is a subset within the ranks of remote workers called the “untethered,” and the D.C. region ranks sixth nationally for its share of them. More than 9% of D.C. area remote workers are fully untethered, meaning they have no real need to be tied to their current locations.

Such workers tend to be young, at an average age of 32, compared to 43 for the area’s overall workforce.

“They are renters, so they are not tied down by homeownership,” said Christopher Salviati, a housing economist at ApartmentList. “They don’t have school-age children, and they are either unmarried, or have a spouse who is not working or who is also working in a remote-friendly occupation.”

That means untethered remote workers have not put down roots and could move anywhere they want. Many more might.

“As these untethered workers are on the precipice of settling down, many of them may be looking at these sky-high housing prices in the places where they’re currently living, and that in itself could be incentive for these folks to want to relocate to places where they are able to purchase homes and raise families in a more comfortable way financially,” said Salviati.

ApartmentList expects that geographic preferences of remote workers could have significant ramifications for housing markets across the country, spurring a wave of migration to more affordable cities.

Untethered workers in the D.C. area don’t have family ties to the region, which might otherwise keep them close. ApartmentList says 84.6% of them were not born here.

D.C. area workers in remote-friendly professions generally tend to be in higher-paying jobs, with a median annual income of $91,300, compared to $41,000 for the region’s non-remote-friendly workforce.

ApartmentList’s full report on the rise of a new untethered class, including its methodology, is posted online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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