Interactive: When Do Americans Leave For Work?

We don't all start our work days at the same time, despite what morning rush hour might have you think. (Hi, Nevada.)
By Nathan Yau  /  Posted to Data Underload  /  Tags: ,

In a continued dig into commute data from the American Community Survey (We already saw mode of transportation.), the map above shows when people leave home for work. The rates are for people who have jobs and are 16 years or older. The data does not include people who work from home.

Do we get anything interesting even though it’s just one facet of the commute to work? Yeah. At the very least, it’s fun to watch the map play out.

As you’d expect, many commuters leave home between 7:00am and 8:00am. However, rates concentrate around this hour much more in some counties than others. This is especially true for counties in the midwest. Around half of commuters in many midwest counties leave during this hour.

This surprised me. Maybe it’s my own misconception, but I always thought of people rising early in the farming areas. Maybe they wake up early to tend to their own land, and then head out at regular times for work? Maybe because there are fewer job types? I’m not sure. Midwesterners, please enlighten me.

In contrast, commuters are more spread out between 7:00am and 8:30am in other areas. Or, if you’re in a heavily populated, long-commute county (like in southern California), start the clock closer to 6:00am.

Still, fairly normal. The outliers are the most interesting bits.


Late-night-NevadaLook at commuting rates during the late night and early morning hours. Nevada stands out, especially Humboldt county where more than a quarter leave for work when it’s still dark. Although, again, this confuses me. Why do people go to work at this time? I suspect it has something to do with a long commute time.

LaGrange county in Indiana, known for its large Amish population, also has many leave for work during the midnight to 4:59am time slot.


6amThere are early-risers everywhere but only a handful of counties where most leave between 6:00am and 6:29am.


Alaska in afternoonFinally, once you get into the late afternoon and evening hours, there’s a low rate of commuters just about everywhere. Except for the Aleutians East Borough in Alaska, that is. With about 2,500 commuters, it’s mostly a commercial fishing area, and the hours are pretty much the opposite of the rest of the United States.

Learn to visualize your data. Become a member.

Join Today


This is for people who want to learn to make and design data graphics. Your support goes directly to FlowingData, an independently run site.

What You Get

  • Instant access to tutorials on how to make and design data graphics
  • Source code and files to use with your own data
  • Four-week course on visualization in R
  • Hand-picked links and resources from around the web


Real Chart Rules to Follow

There are rules—usually for specific chart types meant to be read in a specific way—that you shouldn’t break. When they are, everyone loses. This is that small handful.

How We Spend Our Money, a Breakdown

We know spending changes when you have more money. Here’s by how much.

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.

Where Bars Outnumber Grocery Stores

A closer look at the age old question of where there are more bars than grocery stores, and vice versa.