Study: Working in New York Sucks


New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer today released the results of a study examining nationwide workplace trends. The main takeaway? New Yorkers have longer workweeks than full-time workers in America’s 29 next-largest cities, when commuting hours are included. We come in at 49 hours and eight minutes, a full thirty minutes ahead of those comparative slackers in second-place San Francisco. You’re shocked, I know.

Stringer’s study examined microdata from the 1990 and 2000 census and the 2013 American Community Survey to reach its conclusions. It’s titled “The Hardest Working Cities,” which is certainly one way of putting it. New Yorkers work, on average, 42 hours and 50 minutes per week, which is right around the average of the 29 other cities in the study. It’s the commute that makes working here uniquely onerous: The average New Yorker spends six hours and eighteen minutes a week commuting. New York is an outlier in that regard, as no other city on the list exceeds even five hours.

The study found that “in almost all common occupations, full-time New York City workers have longer combined work-commuting weeks,” but the impact isn’t felt equally. Unsurprisingly, lower-wage occupations like security guards and home health care workers are burdened more heavily than finance sector employees, who work crazy hours, too, but can afford to live closer to the city’s core, in areas well-served by public transit. Security guards, in fact, have the longest commute: a hellish eight hours per week, spent on trains and buses. The report found that “nursing and home health aides and maids and housekeepers also report long commutes, while chief executives, physicians and surgeons report some of the shortest commutes.” There are fewer working mothers in New York City, as well

The longer commute hours also unduly burden wage works compared to salaried employees. In a summary press release, Stringer said:

New York is America’s hardest working city, but it’s a one-two punch for lower wage workers, who get paid less and travel longer to get to work. This means employees in the Big Apple get paid less than it appears on an hourly basis, because their commutes are significantly greater than anyone else in the country. New Yorkers are dedicated, ambitious and tough, but to compete in the 21st century we need to expand our transit networks and advance policies like flexible work arrangements and predictable scheduling.

In 2013, New Yorkers earned, on average, 16 percent more than their counterparts in other large cities, but commuting progressively erodes that advantage. For example, higher-income, salaried groups like lawyers and judges “retained an effective wage premium of 15 percent”; this number shrinks to four percent for waiters and waitresses, while nurses and home health care aides effectively earned 11 percent less when commute times are factored in, even before adjusting for the higher cost of living.

So, yeah: this is yet another way in which certain of New York City’s policies and infrastructural quirks reward the rich and punish the poor. The study is an argument for higher minimum wage pay and for capital improvements to the city’s public transit system. Here’s Stringer’s conclusion; it’s not exactly thrilling!

If New York City is going to symbolize the American Dream, we can’t be a nightmare when it comes to long work hours and commuting. Our residents deserve better. We need to give New Yorkers a 21st century transit system and better utilize women’s skills so that they don’t have to choose between work and family.

You can read the entire study here, if you want to feel bad.

Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.


  1. Maybe if:

    x City Council members and groups like the GVSHP weren’t screaming for downzoning and neighborhood historical landmarking to “protect” neighborhoods, driving people out of the city for even longer commutes;
    x we didn’t have rent regulations that meant that the lucky get to pay 1980s prices in 2016 dollars for their housing with no respect to income or need while being a force to block denser buildings, while passing on the costs to market-rate renters through buyouts and reduced tax payments;
    x subsidized aka “affordable” housing, while a minuscule contribution to overall housing needs, wasn’t a way for politicians to buy off key constituencies at the expense of market-rate renters who have to pay for it;
    x and perhaps after the three above if it was cost-effective to build non-“luxury” housing because development space is in such short, expensive supply,

    we could have cheaper, denser housing and shorter commutes?

    Nah, to easy to keep the status quo. Politicians get to house their constituency on the cheap while receiving campaign contributions from people that benefit from inflated real estate prices. Everyone else pays the price.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here