SF, San Jose Among Most Nocturnal Places in U.S., Where Workday Starts Latest

These people relaxing along the High Line in New York in May 2012 are in no rush to get anywhere. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)
These people relaxing along the High Line in New York in May 2012 are in no rush to get anywhere. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)

New York, the “city that never sleeps,” is either living up to its name or perhaps slumbering more than most towns. Hard to tell.

What we do know, however, thanks to census data from the American Community Survey, is that New Yorkers arrive at work later than anyone else in the United States. And residents of San Jose and San Francisco are not far behind.

They ranked third and fifth, respectively, in a list of the 20 most nocturnal areas in the country, in a piece posted Tuesday on FiveThirtyEight: “Which Cities Sleep in, and Which Get to Work Early.”

Statistician Nate Silver, founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, determined that the workday in New York starts later than in any other city in the country, and about 30 minutes later than in the U.S. as a whole. The top 20 cities, on a chart titled “Not Getting the Worm,” include second-place Atlantic City, a gambling and tourist magnet, and No. 4, Ithaca, N.Y., home of Cornell University.

In the New York metropolitan area, the median arrival time at work is 8:24 a.m., compared with 8:21 a.m. in San Jose and 8:17 a.m. in San Francisco. On the other end of the spectrum, the U.S. metro area with the earliest median arrival time is Hinesville, Ga., at 7:01 a.m. Other early birds included Pascagoula, Miss. (which ranked second), Clarksville, Tenn., Fayetteville, N.C., and Houma, La. The Central Valley towns of Hanford and Bakersfield also landed on the top 20 “Getting the Worm” chart.

More startling than any of these findings is the fact that these places would be considered “cities” at all. But they qualify as metropolitan areas, according to the American Community Survey.

Silver wrote that the 20 most laggardly cities broke down into three categories. New York, San Francisco and Boston have attracted many young creative professionals. And then there are college towns, such as Boulder in Colorado, Logan in Utah and Lawrence in Kansas. In the third class are cities with economies tied to gambling, tourism and recreation, such as Miami and Orlando in Florida and Atlantic City, where the story said that 25 percent of the workforce doesn’t begin its workday until at least 11:26 a.m.

By contrast, the median worker in Hinesville arrives at 7:01 a.m. and could easily belong to the military because that part of Georgia includes Fort Stewart and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Silver noted that other military metros, such as Killeen, Texas, (Fort Hood) and Jacksonville, N.C. (Camp Lejeune) are, not surprisingly, among the earliest-to-work parts of the country. Other early birds, such as Bakersfield, are involved with agriculture and farming.

Oddly enough, Honolulu is another city where people get to their jobs early. Silver figured some workers are trying to coordinate with the U.S. mainland, though this is not the case in Anchorage, Alaska, where the median workday starts two minutes after the U.S. median of 7:55 – and where sunrise doesn’t happen until after 8 a.m. five months of the year.

Silver, a 36-year-old Michigan native, became obsessed with baseball at an early age. He developed a system for predicting player performance, worked as an economic consultant and established FiveThirtyEight.com in March 2008. Later that year, he gained national attention after predicting the winner of 49 states in the presidential election. In 2010, the New York Times began publishing his blog. ESPN now owns the website, which debuted last month and is using “data journalism” to delve into a wide mix of subjects.

In the piece, Silver said he’s not a morning person, which is one of the reasons he appreciates living in New York:

A decade or so ago, when I was a consultant living in Chicago, I didn’t have it so easy. Work in Chicago begins a little earlier than in New York — about 20 minutes earlier, relative to the local time zone. My bosses nevertheless tolerated me rolling into the office at a bit past 9 a.m. But sometimes I’d travel to cities such as St. Louis and Omaha, Neb., to visit clients. Meetings as early as 6 or 7 a.m. were not uncommon; I was “relieved” from one project after a client caught me nodding off in a meeting.

In New York, Silver wrote, 25 percent of the workforce has gotten in by 7:28 a.m., while 75 percent has arrived by 9:32 a.m.

Among the comments on FiveThirtyEight.com, one from Rentenna, a website aimed at renters, said its own analysis had found that Upper West Side residents most commonly leave for work a half-hour earlier than those who live in the Wall Street area. Others wondered how much of a factor longitude is.

The story concluded by pointing out that type of work is most important than location in shaping workday schedules. So, early birds and night owls out of sync with their work lives are advised to change jobs rather than cities.

Canal Street subway station in Lower Manhattan is often swarming with commuters at rush hour.  (Patricia Yollin/KQED)
Canal Street subway station in Lower Manhattan is often swarming with commuters at rush hour. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)

Author

Patricia Yollin

Pat Yollin has written about all kinds of stuff, including wayward penguins at the San Francisco Zoo, organ transplants, the comeback of the cream puff, New York on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, a Slow Food gathering in Italy and the microcredit movement in Northern California. Her favorite stories from last year were an interview with George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch, a profile of Italy's consul general in SF, and a pirate Trader Joe's operation in Vancouver that prompted the grocery chain to sue -- and lose.

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