Alternative Work Arrangements: Developing Better Household Survey Measures

Project Dates

10/02/2017 -


Some evidence points to substantial recent growth in various types of contract employment, including short-term "gig" work. New technologies, such as on-line platforms and mobile apps, may spur rapid growth of contract work in the future. These developments have potentially important implications for future reforms to labor and employment law and social insurance programs, which currently are designed for the traditional employee relationship. Hard evidence on the incidence of and trends in various types of contract work arrangements is limited and sometimes conflicting. New research, for example, indicates that official statistics from the CPS may have missed a substantial recent rise in self-employment, which includes independent contractor work.

Using the Gallup Daily: Politics and Economy Track Survey (GDS) as a vehicle, our project will examine how well typical household survey questions capture gigs and other types of contract work. We will develop a survey module for the GDS that will include approximately a dozen questions on respondents' employment and the nature of their work arrangements. By asking more probing questions, we expect to better capture non-standard work and be better able to characterize that work. Wording for selected questions will be randomly varied among respondents. Gallup will administer the survey module for two months, yielding data on about 30,000 respondents who report some employment. The study will generate new information by demographic group on both the incidence of various types of contract work arrangements and the sensitivity of measures to question wording. The project's findings will shed light on the importance of and reasons for any undercount of self-employment and may suggest ways in which questions can be modified on household surveys to reduce misreporting of employment status.


Kauffman Foundation ; Russell Sage Foundation

Subject Area

LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Employment relationships; Nonstandard work arrangements; Temporary employment