Nearly half of employed Americans are working a side job in addition to their regular full-time or part-time positions, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com.
On average, 43% percent of full-time employed people said they worked on the side and 51% of part-time employed did so, while 27% percent said that at least half of their total monthly income came from what they did on the side. Even though wages have been growing, 31% of the people needed extra work to make basic ends meet, according to the 2,500 surveyed. Another 36% use additional jobs for disposable income, while 24% are trying to boost their savings.
“The younger you are, the more likely you are to have a side hustle,” said Bankrate.com analyst Amanda Dixon. Of adults age 18 to 35, 49% had side work, compared to 41% of those between 35 and 54 and 27% of respondents 55 or older.
The numbers seemed overly high to some outside experts. “Honestly, that seems pretty high to me,” said Ben Griffy, a labor economist and assistant professor of economics at the University of Albany, SUNY. “I could imagine substantial number of part-time workers having multiple jobs. In terms of full-time work, 43% seems like a pretty large number for full-time employed workers.”
It even surprised Dixon. “Being someone based in New York City, I see that as reality,” she said. “But having people across America with side gigs—it’s disconcerting to see that you need multiple jobs to make ends meet or have a quality life.”
The phrasing of some questions, as provided by Bankrate.com in a full copy of the data, might have led to some overly open forms of answer. The first question is an example: “People have different main sources of income, such as a primary job, or money from a family member or a trust fund. Other than your MAIN source of income, do you, personally, do anything to earn extra income on the side?”
Does that mean regular side work? Something done every now and then or, in the case of a seasonal worker like a teacher, during a slow period where normal employment dries up? Griffy said that “if the definition is more informal, you could end up with a larger number.”
Still, other studies have found such ‘side’ work to be pervasive. The Federal Reserve’s 2018 report on the economic well-being of households found that 31% of adults surveyed had “engaged in gig work in the month before the survey.”
“It’s so hard to get real numbers. Every single study done gives different numbers,” said Alexandrea Ravenelle, a sociologist and assistant professor at Mercy College who has studied the issue. “Even if the numbers [in the new survey] are larger than reality, it’s still definitely a major problem. I would say it’s probably around a third of the population is turning to additional sources of income in addition to one main job or they’re in the gig economy entirely. It’s not just limited to platform work.”
The differentiation by age struck Victor Claar, a professor of economics at Florida Gulf Coast University. “I think there are comparable meaningful differences there,” he said. Younger people are more accustomed to technology and can use it to find opportunities quicker.
There were also gender disparities. The average monthly income reported by men was $896.36, with a median income of $200, showing that a smaller group at the top dominated the earnings. However, women, working about the same number of hours a month, averaged $773.33, with a median of $100. Even when trying to pull in extra bucks on the side, women end up shortchanged.
Whatever you measure, one thing’s for sure: The hustle is real.
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