Poster Paper: Survey of Enterprising and Informal Work Activities

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Barbara Robles, Marysol McGee and Alexandra Marie Brown, Federal Reserve Board

Many more American workers are involved with alternative, informal and contingent work arrangements than in previous decades (Schor, 2014; Friedman, 2014). Yet the usual employment data sources such as the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and the BLS’ Current Employment Survey (CES) are limited in their ability to measure the growth of ‘gig’ and ‘supplemental’ work. Researchers and policymakers lack reliable data on some basic questions about informal work, such as: how many Americans engage in occasional work? For those who do occasional work, how many “gigs” do they have, and how much income do they derive from gigs versus traditional labor income? What are the demographics of those most involved in alternative work arrangements? Is the increase in occasional work driven by “push” factors (economic necessity) or “pull” factors (preference for flexibility)? We provide preliminary evidence on these and other questions related to informal work, employing data collected from the GfK General Population Panel, a national internet panel of approximately 2,000 adult respondents with an oversample of low-to-moderate income households (ie., zero-$40K). Respondents are asked a detailed series of questions about their work modes, including whether they work full time ‘and’ part time, whether they work for a traditional employer ‘and’ for themselves, and whether they undertake occasional “gig” work. We measure respondents’ assessments of the significance of their ‘gig’ work on supplementing household monthly budgets. The nature of the occasional ‘gig’ work covers online oriented tasks (selling services) and using the web to sell new or used goods (eg., eBay, Etsy, etc.), ridesharing (eg., Uber, Lyft, etc.) and renting space or items (eg., AirBnB, etc.). We also capture the more traditional venues for supplementing income: flea markets, thrift and consignment stores, mobile food trucks and carts, etc.

Pre-release results. Please do not distribute