Is Gig Work Replacing Traditional Employment? Evidence from Two Decades of Tax Returns

Brett Collins, Andrew Garin, Emilie Jackson, Dmitri Koustas, Mark Payne

Research output: Working paper


We examine the universe of tax returns in order to reconcile seemingly contradictory facts about the rise of alternative work arrangements in the United States. Focusing on workers in the “1099 workforce,” we document the share of the workforce with income from alternative, non-employee work arrangements has grown by 1.9 percentage points of the workforce from 2000 to 2016. More than half of this increase occurred over 2013 to 2016 and can be attributed almost entirely to dramatic growth among gigs mediated through online labor platforms. We find that the rise in online platform work for labor is driven by earnings that are secondary and supplemental sources of income. Many of these jobs do not show up in self-employment tax records: approximately 44 percent of the overall growth in the 1099 economy comes from people who do not file self-employment taxes. Examining the relationship between 1099s and self-employment tax records more generally, we find that the previously documented increases in self-employment tax filings since 2007 are largely driven by workers without 1099s. We discuss implications of these findings for tax administration and measurement of alternative work using tax data.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages72
StateIn preparation - Mar 25 2019


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