The Case for Remote Work

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Date
2020-04-13
Authors
Clancy, Matthew
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Economics

The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 to teach economic theory as a truth of industrial life, and was very much concerned with applying economics to business and industry, particularly agriculture. Between 1910 and 1967 it showed the growing influence of other social studies, such as sociology, history, and political science. Today it encompasses the majors of Agricultural Business (preparing for agricultural finance and management), Business Economics, and Economics (for advanced studies in business or economics or for careers in financing, management, insurance, etc).

History
The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 under the Division of Industrial Science (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); it became co-directed by the Division of Agriculture in 1919. In 1910 it became the Department of Economics and Political Science. In 1913 it became the Department of Applied Economics and Social Science; in 1924 it became the Department of Economics, History, and Sociology; in 1931 it became the Department of Economics and Sociology. In 1967 it became the Department of Economics, and in 2007 it became co-directed by the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Business.

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1898–present

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  • Department of Economic Science (1898–1910)
  • Department of Economics and Political Science (1910-1913)
  • Department of Applied Economics and Social Science (1913–1924)
  • Department of Economics, History and Sociology (1924–1931)
  • Department of Economics and Sociology (1931–1967)

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Abstract

The case for remote work goes well beyond its use during the covid-19 global pandemic. Over the last ten years, research from a variety of subdisciplines in economics and other social sciences collectively makes a strong case for the viability of remote work for the long-run. This paper brings this research together to argue remote work (also called telework) is likely to become far more common in the future for four reasons. First, the productivity of individual workers who switch to remote work is comparable or higher than their colocated peers, at least in some industries. Second, matching firms to geographically distant workers is becoming easier thanks to technological and social developments. Third, remote workers tend to be cheaper because workers value geographic flexibility and the ability to work remotely. Fourth, the benefits of knowledge spillovers from being physically close to other knowledge workers has been falling and may no longer exist in many domains of knowledge. While the prevalence of remote work (pre-covid-19) is small, I show it was already rising rapidly with plenty of room to continue growing. Finally, I argue remote work has positive externalities and should be promoted by policy-makers.

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