Fusion's There are probably way more people in the 'gig economy' than we realize covers a major shift in thinking about how many people in the U.S. have multiple jobs or "gigs".
The article quotes noted Harvard economist Larry Katz as saying:
... in preliminary interviews with “gig economy” workers, Katz said he and Krueger have confirmed that a majority of those who have regular, non-“gig” employment don’t answer that they have “multiple jobs” when asked the standard multiple-jobs question, “even in many cases where they have significant on-line and other non-traditional job income.”
“They do answer about their share, gig, and freelance economy activities when specifically asked about other specific ways they made income,” Katz said. “But many of them do not seem to consider such activities as ‘regular jobs.'”
Katz is working with Princeton economist and former Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Kruger, on a study of the gig economy.
Regular readers know the gig economy industry has been aware of the problems with asking about "2nd jobs" for several years.
For example, we changed our surveys to ask about "other sources of income" instead of "other jobs" about 3 years ago. We did that based on our interviews with independent workers. This led to about a 4X increase in the number of survey respondents reporting multiple sources of income.
Our post from last year - Moonlighting: Booming or Declining - covers this specific topic in more detail.
The Fusion article also says Kruger and Katz point to tax and non-employer business data as additional evidence the gig economy is growing.
Again, this is something the gig economy industry has been pointing to for years. We first wrote about this almost a decade ago (and we were by no means the first) and some of our first blog posts --way back in 2007 -- are on these topics.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing academic research or these highly respected economists.
Academic research in the economics and business fields often confirms or disproves hypotheses established by people working in the field. This is done by thorough data collection and rigorous analysis, both of which require a lot of time - often years in the case of the data.
The reason I consider this a major shift in thinking is that these are, at least as far as I know, the first well known academics to acknowledge the number of Americans with 2nd jobs is much larger than government statistics report.
Assuming Katz and Kruger's study confirms this, their findings will lead to others in academia, government and think tanks acknowledging that the gig economy is large and growing.
And that is a big deal.