Chart of the week: Housing policy must be a cornerstone of D.C.’s economic development strategy

June 28, 2024
  • Daniel Burge

The rise of remote work has changed the relationship between where people work, on one hand, and where people live, on the other. Instead of living near their workplaces, people who work remotely can live farther away from their jobs. Given this possibility, one would expect that people who work from home will be more residentially mobile than those who are officegoers. To test this hypothesis, we examined the residential mobility rates of employed D.C. residents aged 18 to 64 who are officegoers and those who worked from home.[1]

Between 2019 and 2022, the percentage of working-age D.C. residents—that is, those who worked from home and officegoers —who changed their residence in the past year increased by one percentage point.[2]

Residents who worked from home appear to have driven this modest increase. Between 2019 and 2021, among D.C. residents who work from home, the percentage who had moved in from another state in the last year declined, while the percentage of those who moved within D.C. doubled. But as the norms for remote and hybrid work became clearer, the direction of the trends changed. Between 2021 and 2022, among remote workers, the percentage who moved within D.C. in the past year declined by two percentage points—from 16 percent to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of D.C.’s remote workers that had moved from another state in the past year increased from 10 to 13 percent.

This latter trend is a positive one. It suggests that D.C. can attract new residents who work from home. Although ACS data does not allow one to answer the question, it would be interesting to know whether these new residents who work from home have jobs located in D.C. or elsewhere. Such data would provide clues as to whether these residents moved to D.C. for job-related reasons.[3]

Given the increased mobility that working from home offers D.C. residents, housing policies must be a foundational pillar of the District’s economic development strategy.  Remote work provides people with greater freedom to pursue housing further away from their workplace. For this reason and others,if the District wants to continually attract residents, it is imperative that the city offer affordable housing to people of all income levels.

[1] This analysis used American Community Survey Public Use Microdata.  The sample is restricted to employed D.C. residents who are between the ages of 18 and 64. Furthermore, the sample was limited to people who lived in the same house, people who moved “within” state, or people who moved “between” states (including Puerto Rico). The analysis relies on the “TRANWORK” and “MIRGRATE1” variables for its estimates, which are subject to sampling error. Survey respondents who indicated some mode of transportation to work—including walking or biking—were classified as “officegoers.”  It is important to note that, for survey respondents who reported that they “worked at home,” the data does not distinguish between people who had a hybrid work arrangement and those who worked from home full time.

[2] A change in residence means that the resident lived in a different “house or apartment 1 year ago.”

[3] In ACS data, the reported place of work for people who work from home will be their state of residence, not the location of a person’s office or workplace. In other words, the place of work variable captures where “job activity” is occurring. This point is indebted to Yesim Sayin and Bailey McConnell, “Worker sprawl in the Washington metropolitan area: Is D.C. still the region’s job hub?D.C. Policy Center, May 1st, 2023.


Daniel Burge

Director of the Alice M. Rivlin Initiative for Economic Policy & Competitiveness
D.C. Policy Center

Daniel Burge is the Director of the Alice M. Rivlin Initiative for Economic Policy & Competitiveness. Before joining the team at the D.C. Policy Center in late October of 2023, Daniel worked at the Center for Washington Area Studies at George Washington University. He performed data analysis for a report on mortgage market trends in the Capital Region and co-authored a policy brief on property tax lien sales. Daniel has published work in The Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington. He received his BA from the University of Puget Sound, his PhD in American history from Boston University, and his MPP (Master of Public Policy) from George Washington University.

You can reach Daniel at