Why Are More People Doing Gig Work?

File 20180328 109175 bbj2a5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Having some control over your workday can make it easier to bear. Branislav Nenin/Shutterstock.com

Cheryl Carleton, Villanova University

Thanks to companies like Lyft, TaskRabbit and Instacart, it’s never been easier for Americans who can afford it to zip from place to place, get groceries delivered or let someone else walk their dog. Likewise, the number of Americans who are self-employed or independent contractors is soaring.

The share of Americans doing everything from accounting to driving as independent contractors rose from 10.7 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015, according to a study by economists Lawrence Katz at Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University. The trend was more pronounced among women, they found, rising from 8 to 17 percent.

Based on my prior research regarding labor markets and job satisfaction, I wanted to know if this number was rising so fast partly because Americans enjoy the flexibility these jobs offer. To find out, I teamed up with a colleague of mine at Villanova University.

Greater flexibility

We already knew people take these jobs for many reasons, whether it’s as a primary source of income or as a side hustle.

Either way, many of these workers get enough flexibility on the job to give them some control over what they do and when they do it. That’s one reason why these arrangements are increasingly common, as a more recent study Katz and Krueger carried out suggests.

My colleague Mary Kelly and I analyzed data gathered through surveys conducted by University of Chicago researchers in 2006, 2010 and 2014 to compare job satisfaction levels among Americans with different kinds of occupations and employment status.

The approximately 3,600 people in this nationally representative sample included workers holding down regular jobs, as well as independent contractors and self-employed workers with some degree of control over their schedules. It also included contract employees lacking autonomy and flexibility, such as those working for temp agencies or with on-call obligations.

We also contrasted job satisfaction for employees in managerial or professional roles with workers in blue-collar occupations, and checked whether there were any differences for men and women.

More satisfaction

As you might expect, we found that people with more control over their schedules and who could choose to some extent which tasks they would take on are significantly more satisfied with their work than their peers who hold regular salaried jobs – despite losing out on benefits and security.

This satisfaction bump ranged between 6 and 8 percent for men and 4 and 8.5 percent for women. Perhaps surprisingly, this edge was bigger among people in nonprofessional jobs than for professionals.

And interestingly, women were generally more satisfied with jobs that gave them more control over their workdays than were men. That was true whether they were in professional occupations or had blue-collar status.

However, we detected no such added satisfaction for the workers without regular salaried positions, but whose jobs gave them little or no extra control over their responsibilities. Male and female employees in that situation were between 3 and 4.5 percent less satisfied with their work than their salaried counterparts.

To be sure, we cannot say exactly what it is about these jobs that Americans seem to find more satisfying. Most likely, different attributes appeal to different workers. For some it may be the flexibility, while for others it may be not being tied to a single employer. And some people, such as single parents or full-time students, may believe that these arrangements are the only way for them to work at all. Surely there are some aspects, such as having scant benefits and job security – or none at all – that they do not like, even if they find them satisfying in general.

The ConversationBut our findings do suggest that no matter how they make a living, American men and women are more satisfied with jobs that provide more control over their work day than with regular salaried jobs. We believe this signals that these kinds of jobs will probably keep growing.

Cheryl Carleton, Assistant Professor of Economics, Villanova University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE CONVERSATIONhttps://theconversation.com/us
THE CONVERSATION US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public. Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public. We aim to help rebuild trust in journalism. All authors and editors sign up to our Editorial Charter. All contributors must abide by our Community Standards policy. We only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise, which they must disclose alongside their article. Authors’ funding and potential conflicts of interest must also be disclosed. Failure to do so carries a risk of being banned from contributing to the site. The Conversation started in Melbourne Victoria and the innovative technology platform and development team is based in the university and research precinct of Carlton. Our newsroom is based in Boston but our team is part of a global newsroom able to share content across sites and around the world. The Conversation US is a non-profit educational entity.​
Notify of


Powerful voices from around the globe that speak to our shared human experience. May they inspire you and give you great hope.



Must Read





Email List Login