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 2018, 3 in 10 adults engaged in “gig work”—defined as informal, infrequent paid activities—in the month before the survey. Although this figure is similar to previous years, slight differences in question wording make direct year-to-year comparisons difficult. In addition, those engaged in gig work are more likely to be unable to cover unexpected expenses and to rely on alternative financial services, especially those who rely on gig work as a main source of income.
How is it collected?
The SHED, conducted annually since 2013, uses an online consumer research panel recruited using random mailings. Respondents are provided computer access if needed. In 2018, there were 11,440 respondents, with a response rate of 54.1 percent.
Who collects it?
The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., which maintains an active economic research agenda.
The SHED asks about informal income-earning activities that happen outside of formal work. Many types of arrangements that are included in other studies—such as temp-agency work or subcontracted work—are unlikely to be included, whereas activities that are excluded by other studies—such as working under the table and selling goods—are included. Informal and independent work overlap, but are not synonymous.
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;