How Many People Have Side Hustles?

uber and lyft

“Global tech hubs have opened innovation-savvy people to acquire “Side Hustles” as a secondary revenue stream, where work is performed in front of any-sized screen and is different from “gig” work as it’s continual and the technology is meant to keep workers locked into working more. While the work is different than coaching basketball camps on the weekend or painting houses in your neighborhood for extra cash, these engagements still pass through corporations of every size that possess financial structures. They are not the friend who will pay you cash. As more and more workers access “side hustles” virtually, local governments will be watching the platforms to ensure workers are compliant and paying their share of tax.” Louis B. Calamaras

For Americans in need of, or simply wanting, a little extra income, Silicon Valley has increasingly provided the answer: There’s an app for that. And according to a new study, a sizable portion of young millennials are taking advantage.

A full 28 percent of those ages 18 to 26 have a so-called “side hustle,” or secondary means of earning income, a higher proportion than any other age group, according to a study released Wednesday by the consumer finance site Bank rate.

“I think it makes sense that we’ve found that millennials are the most likely to have a side hustle,” said Bankrate’s Sarah Berger.  Along with being relatively tech savvy, she noted, millennials “are the generation that’s known for drowning in student debt.”

Still, the gains aren’t too lucrative for the country’s youngest workers, only one in five of whom pull in more than $500 monthly from secondary income. What the extra cash is used for varies substantially depending on who’s earning it: 69 percent of women who engage in “side hustles” put the money toward necessary expenses (as opposed to simply using it as additional dispensable income), while only 42 percent of men do.

There are a litany of potential reasons for the disparity. On top of the dreaded wage gap — which, even when controlling for experience and education level, remains at an 8 to 18 percent differential, research shows — women also graduate with more student debt, take longer to pay it off and get less help from their parents. But given the relatively small sample size of 1,000 total survey respondents, it’s possible the difference in men’s and women’s side-gig spending habits may not be as significant in reality.

The age group is believed to earn significantly less than their parents did at their age but Bankrate did not have previous iterations of the study for comparison, so it’s hard to tell with absolute certainty whether more Americans have been turning to side jobs than in the past, even with the advent of apps like Uber, Fiverr and TaskRabbit.

But while Americans in the early years of adulthood have, of course, a long history of picking up odd jobs, the trend has certainly seen an uptick, with the ease with which technology allows access to such tasks likely being a more important factor than college debt burdens, according to Paul Oyer, a professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business who focuses on labor economics.

“I really think that that’s the main driver,” he said of innovations in tech. Oyer added that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the popularity of side hustles exhibited a steady upswing, both previously and in the future.

Susan Houseman, a senior economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research who specializes in employment and nonstandard work, echoed the belief that technology has made long-existing side hustles more accessible.

“People always did yardwork for people in their neighborhoods, or babysat, or sold things at flea markets, but now people can sell things at flea markets online,” she said. She added that “at this point there’s a bit of speculation, because we don’t have good data on this.”

One indicator, however, is a documented increase in filings of the Internal Revenue Service’s 1099 forms, which taxpayers must fill out if they get more than $600 in non-employee compensation. This indicator shows, at least, that a substantial number of side-hustlers are paying their gig economy taxes.

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