Working from home and digital divides: resilience during the pandemic

Hannah Budnitz & Emmanouil Tranos

University of Bristol, Alan Turing Institute


Budnitz, H., and E. Tranos (2021) Working from home and digital divides: resilience during the pandemic. Annals of the AAG. In press. link


  • Introduction
  • Experienced broadband speed data
  • Analysis
  • Conclusions


WFH / Telecommuting

  • From a niche means of accessing work to a widespread way of life
  • From \(5\)% to \(47\)% in the UK (ONS 2020a, 2020b)
  • \(37\)% WFM in European April \(2020\)
  • \(60\)% in Finland (Eurofound 2020)
  • Almost \(50\)% in the US, \(37\)% could be permanently moved online (Brynjolfsson et al. 2020; Dingel and Neiman 2020)

WFH / Telecommuting

  • WFH = economic resilience during Covid-19

  • Capability to WFH:

    • occupations
    • quality digital infrastructure
  • Spatial clustering and dependence

Digital divides

  • 1st level: availability and quality of internet connectivity

  • 2nd level: skills to effectively utilise digital technologies

  • 3rd level: returns of internet usage

  • Cross-level interactions

Our approach

  • Intersection of digital and material divides

  • Economic resilience of places as digital technologies became an essential tool of productivity during the pandemic

    internet services + occupations \(\Rightarrow\) WFM \(\Rightarrow\) economic resilience

Our approach

  • UK Local Authorities Districts (LAD) as a case study
  • Quality of internet service: experienced internet speeds during the spring \(2020\) lockdown
  • Time-series clustering to create clusters of local authorities with similar temporal signatures of internet speeds
    • \(\Rightarrow\) 1st level of digital divide
  • Regress cluster membership against their socioeconomic and geographic characteristics
    • \(\Rightarrow\) how the 1st level of digital divide intersects with the 2nd and 3rd


Experienced Broadband Speeds

  • Experienced vs.¬†advertised internet speeds
  • \(\Uparrow\) internet demand ¬†usage \(\Downarrow\) experienced internet speed
  • Riddlesden and Singleton (2014) & Nardotto, Valletti, and Verboven (2015)
  • Stream data, anonymised individual speed tests
  • Upload speeds and the frequency of speed tests March to May \(2020\)