Summer 1993 // Volume 31 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB3
Home-Based Work: Research to Support Extension Programs
During the 1980s, economic and technological changes made home employment a viable option for many workers. This study was conducted to document demographic, household, and business profiles of home-based workers in Pennsylvania so Extension could learn how to develop effective programs for this clientele.
During the 1980s, economic and technological changes made home employment a viable option for many workers. However, little is known about the status and characteristics of home-based work and home-based workers. The number of analytical studies addressing issues related to home-based work is scarce.1 This study was conducted to document demographic, household, and business profiles of home-based workers in Pennsylvania so Extension could learn how to develop effective programs for this clientele.
Although the data for this study came from a nine-state Agricultural Experiment Station Research Project involving Hawaii, Iowa, New York, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont, we're only highlighting Pennsylvania findings. A stratified random sample of 110 home-based workers in Pennsylvania was selected from a list of household telephone numbers in the nine states. The telephone numbers were obtained from Survey Sampling, Inc. of Fairfield, Connecticut. The Iowa State University Statistical Laboratory made screening calls to identify households containing at least one home-based worker. For this study, home-based work was defined as one or more family members working in or from the home for at least 312 hours over a year's time. A survey research instrument was developed, pre- tested, revised, and administered through a telephone interview. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Of the 110 home-based workers interviewed, 54% were men. Pennsylvania home-based workers were well-educated: 40% had a high school education, 25% had attended some college, 20% were college educated, and 10% had post-graduate education. About two- thirds of home-based workers were 30-49 years old, while close to a third of them were over 50 years old. Most (91%) home-based workers were married, and were employed full-time (63%). Home- based workers were more likely to live in towns or cities with a population of 2,500 or less.
Fifty-two percent of the home-based workers in Pennsylvania didn't have any children at home. The mean number of children living with the home-based worker was 0.9. The average household size was 3.1.
Most respondents were non-seasonal workers with an average 9.6 years of experience in home-based work. Most (74%) were businessowners, with a wide variety of occupational types represented: marketing and sales (23%), mechanical and transportation (15%), services (12%), crafts and artisans (12%), professional and technical (11%), contractors (11%), clerical and administrative support (8%), agricultural products and sales (5%), and managers (3%). Further examination of these occupations revealed that home-based workers pursue both traditional and contemporary occupations such as tax preparation, engine rebuilding, woodworking, mail order business, computer programming, financial consulting, data processing, and market research.
Findings also suggest that home-based workers are satisfied with the work they do, and had positive attitudes toward home- based work and its future. Seventy-seven percent of the home- based workers were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their work. The income earned from home-based work was quite adequate for a majority (77%) of home-based workers. Close to a third said that the future for home-based work in Pennsylvania is bright, while 61% said the future remains the same.
This study provided baseline data on home-based work in Pennsylvania. For present and potential home-based workers, the findings are indicative of possible employment opportunities and realistic earnings from home-based work. Findings also indicated vast potential for educational programming in home-based work. Extension educators should develop educational programs aimed at helping individuals identify additional market opportunities for home-based products and services. Home-based work is a part of the Revitalizing Rural America Initiative. Therefore, Extension and family life educators should identify programming needs that enhance production and family income. Further, rural development centers and financial institutions should discuss the pros and cons of home-based work and help individuals make employment choices.
1. J. Pratt, "Methodological Problems in Surveying the Home- Based Workforce," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, XXXI (No. 1, 1987), 49-60.