What is it measuring?
The Federal Reserve's Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) examines the economic well-being of American households, asking a range of questions about income, work, and spending. The employment section tracks informal income-generating activities, including completing tasks online, providing services, and selling goods.
What does it tell us?
In 2020, 27 percent of adults earned money from engaging in "gigs," which includes a range of work activities including paid childcare, housecleaning, ridesharing, selling goods, and renting out property. Although this figure is similar to previous years, differences in question wording make accurate year-to-year comparisons difficult. Most people used gig income to supplement other income sources: 47 percent of gig workers also had full-time jobs, and 22 percent had part-time jobs.
How is it collected?
The SHED, conducted annually since 2013, uses an online consumer research panel recruited based on address-based sampling. In 2020, results from 11,648 respondents who completed the survey were used in the final analysis.
Who collects it?
The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., which maintains an active economic research agenda.
The 2020 SHED asked if people had engaged in types of work that is often performed as gigs, including child or elder care, dog walking, cleaning, yard work, driving or ridesharing, online tasks, and selling or renting out goods, in the past month. Some of this work is likely performed in standard employment relationships or as small business owners. In addition, some types of work typically considered non-standard, such as temp agency or subcontracted work, would not be counted. Although the definition used is imprecise, it does likely catch informal work that is not reflected in other surveys.
In prior years, when measuring gig work, the survey asked explicitly about informal income-earning activities that happen outside of formal work.
How to access this data?
SHED data are publicly available from the Federal Reserve Board.
Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018; 2019; ; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017; 2018; ; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
Exploring Online and Offline Informal Work: Findings from the Enterprising and Informal Work Activities (EIWA) Survey; 2016; ; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020; 2021; ; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;