Around 16.9 million American workers describe themselves as digital nomads, according to the MBO Partners 2022 State of Independence research study, up 9% from 2021 and 131% from the pre-pandemic year 2019.
There's perhaps nothing more significant than COVID-19 that's impacted the growth and composition of digital nomads, the report says, describing them as "people who embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle".
The study found that a total of 11.1 million traditional workers (those employed full-time by an organization) lived as digital nomad in 2022, up 9% from 10.2 million in 2021. The number of digital nomads with traditional jobs had doubled in 2020 and increased by 42% in 2021.
Here are some key findings and statistics from the report:
- Three out of four digital nomad traditional workers (76%) had started their own business or worked independently before entering the traditional workforce, in comparison with 40% of all workers. Professionally and personally, they feel in control of their destiny.
- The number of digital nomads who work independently (freelancers, independent contractors, etc.) increased by 5% in 2021.
- In 2022, 59% of digital nomads were male and 41% were female.
- Digital nomads were 27% baby boomers (born 1946-1964) in 2019, but that share dropped to 17% in 2020 and to 12% in 2021. In 2022, the share of boomers remained low at 13%.
- In 2022, 17% of digital nomads were Generation Z, 47% were millenials, and 23% were Generation X.
- Overall, digital nomads have become younger over the past four years. However, older age groups are still strongly represented: More than one-third (37%) are from the two older generations, and almost one in ten (9%) are older than 60.
Digital nomads work in a variety of fields, with the top occupations being:
- Information technology (21%)
- Creative services (12%)
- Education and training (11%)
- Sales, marketing, and PR (9%)
- Finance and accounting (9%)
- Consulting, coaching, and research (8%)
Adoption of Technology
- The majority of digital nomads (86%) say they use technology to stay competitive, compared to 47 percent of non-digital nomads.
- Non-digital nomads are less likely than digital nomads to be early technology adopters (42% vs. 74%).
- Digital nomads are also well-educated on average, with 59% having a college degree or higher (compared to 35% of adult Americans) and 26% having an advanced degree (compared to 13% of adult Americans).
- More than 4 in 5 digital nomads (82%) say they're either very satisfied (51%) or satisfied (31%) with their earnings. This is higher than the income satisfaction of workers who're not digital nomads: 71% are either very satisfied (32%) or satisfied (39%) with their income.
- Nomads report that the ability to travel when and where they want is the greatest advantage of being a nomad.
The biggest challenges cited by today's digital nomads are:
- Personal safety (34%)
- Being away from family and friends (32%)
- Time zone differences that make work difficult (30%)
- Loneliness (26%)
- Travel logistics (25%)
- Managing work and travel (25%)
- More digital nomads plan to remain nomadic. In 2022, 69% of digital nomads say they plan to maintain this lifestyle for at least the next 2-3 years. It is an increase from 54% in 2021 and 49% in 2020.
- The main reason for this increase is digital nomads with traditional jobs. More employers are allowing their employees to work as digital nomads.
Other reasons include the strong pent-up demand for travel created by the pandemic, the introduction of visas for digital nomads, a growing support industry (from cross-border health insurance and financial services to temporary work and living spaces and online information sites), and huge investments in remote work tools and technology (such as faster Internet speeds, greater bandwidth, and remote collaboration software).