Data and Studies

The vast majority of independent contractors are correctly classified. Study after study going back to at least 2015 shows that 70% to 85% of us who choose self-employment are happier, healthier and earning as much or more money than in a traditional job. Even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, 60% of us said no amount of money would get us to take a traditional job.

2022 studies

Center for Economic and Policy Research

“The increase in self-employment is disproportionately a story of women, especially non-white women, opting to become self-employed. This also seems to be tied to having young children at home. A plausible explanation for this increase is that a lack of access to childcare has made many women seek more flexible work arrangements in order to oversee their kids.”

“There were very large increases in the share of Black and Hispanic workers who report being incorporated self-employed. The shares for both increased by roughly 45 percent. … If it is sustained, it will imply substantial gains in business ownership for Blacks and Hispanics.”

MBO Partners

82% of organizations report that skilled contingent workers make up half or more of their contingent labor force. Highly skilled, high-earning independent consultants and contractors is one of the fastest-growing segments of the contingent workforce.

Saving money fell to the ninth most important reason for companies to choose contingent workers. This is a substantial change from even just a few years ago, when saving money was one of the top five reasons. The need to improve business productivity, workforce flexibility, and access to highly skilled labor have overcome cost savings in importance.

McKinsey & Company

“A remarkable 36 percent of employed respondents—equivalent to 58 million Americans when extrapolated from the representative sample—identify as independent workers. This figure represents a notable increase since we estimated the U.S. independent workforce in 2016 at 27 percent of the employed population.”

Independent respondents “are far more optimistic, both about their own futures and the outlook for the economy, than the average American worker. More than a third of them say that in 12 months they expect to have more economic opportunities, compared with a fifth of workers overall who say the same. More than 40 percent of independent workers say that they think it’s more likely in five years that there will be continuous economic growth, compared with about a third of all respondents.”

“Though the total percentage includes people who engage in some independent work on top of permanent employment, 72 percent of independent workers say they have only one job.”

“A third of employed respondents who earn more than $150,000 a year … include lawyers, accountants, successful actors, writers and other creatives, influencers, traveling nurses, and a variety of advisers and specialists. … A quarter of independent workers report that they do independent work because they enjoy it. This is the top reason cited by high earners.”


“Nearly 80% of hiring managers who engage skilled freelancers say they are confident (78%) in their ability to find the talent they need, compared to just 63% of those who don’t engage freelancers.”

“When asked about how confident they are in their company’s ability to respond to a disruption, 84% of those who use independent talent say they are confident compared to just 69% who do not use independent talent.”

“A majority (56%) of hiring managers that engage independent talent say they have increased utilization of independent talent over the past 12 months. And there is no sign of that trend letting up: 58% plan to increase utilization of independent talent over the next six months, as well as over the next two years (66%).”

“85% say that working with independent talent allows them to access specialized skills or expertise. Seventy-nine percent agree that working with independent talent has enabled their business to be more innovative.”

Boston Medical Center Women’s Health

“Among working women, self-employment was associated with a 34% decrease in the odds of reporting obesity, a 43% decrease in the odds of reporting hypertension, a 30% decrease in the odds of reporting diabetes, and a 68% increase in the odds of reporting participation in at least twice-weekly physical activity. BMI for self-employed women was on average 1.79 units lower than it was for women working for wages.”


“Over one-third of entrepreneurs (36%) started their business after voluntarily quitting their job. This trend is particularly focused in Professional Services, with 48% of entrepreneurs who quit their job starting firms in that sector.”

“In 2021, 49% of entrepreneurs were women, a dramatic increase from the 28% seen in 2019.”

“Black or African American, LGBT and female new business owners were significantly more likely to start a firm in Community Services sectors – Nonprofits, Education, and Health Care – with 33% of Black-owned businesses in these sectors, 35% of LGBT-owned businesses, and 32% of female-owned businesses, compared to 26% overall.”

“Hispanic and AAPI entrepreneurs were more likely than others to start firms in Professional Services, with 49% of each group owning businesses in these sectors.”

“34% of Black or African American business owners started a business in order to improve their financial stability.”

“The portion of entrepreneurs who started a business due to child care responsibilities was highest among female business owners who indicated that they have school-aged children at home: 28% of these new business owners created their business in response to increased child care responsibilities, the most-commonly cited reason among this group of entrepreneurs.”


“A full three-quarters (75%) of these workers are highly satisfied with their work this year, significantly higher than last year (70%). More than eight in ten (83%) believe they are also more satisfied than they would be in traditional employment. These workers are also more satisfied with their independent work compared to their employed counterparts, of whom only six-in-ten (61%) are highly satisfied with their traditional employment.”


“83% of working women said they crave flexibility over stability in a working environment, and 92% said they are likely (51%) or very likely (41%) to prioritize flexibility over stability.”

“While women may be forgoing job stability in their transition from full-time positions, they are gaining mental health stability. 48% of women who switched to contract work reported improved mental health, and of the women who changed to gig work, one-third (38%) reported improved mental health.”

“88% of women who transitioned to gig work said that it allowed them to care for their loved ones without being judged or penalized. 79% of women doing gig work said they took on gig work with more than one company to more easily build a schedule that worked for them, get more hours and make work more varied and interesting.”


“The Great Resignation isn’t just about workers moving from one full-time job to another; 20%, or 10 million Americans, are considering freelancing. Among those, 73% cite the ability to work remote or flexibly as a reason why.”

The 10 million people considering freelancing would represent “a significant 17 percent increase in the total freelance workforce.”

“38% indicate what they value most about remote work is a more flexible schedule. The next most valued thing was more personal time, followed by 15% who say the lack of commute.”

2021 studies

MBO Partners

There are now 51.1 million independent contractors in the United States.

55% of new contractors in 2021 were female. 68% were GenZ or millennials.

Two out of three independent contractors believe they are more secure than traditional workers.

87% say they are happier, and 78% say they are healthier, working independently.

Pew Research Center

“This survey asked Americans for their views … a majority (62%) say the most appropriate way to describe ride-hailing drivers is as independent contractors providing a service on behalf of the apps or websites. Smaller shares (35%) say these drivers are best described as employees who work directly for these platforms.”

“Gig platform workers’ self-perceptions follow a similar pattern – 65% see themselves as independent contractors, while 28% view themselves as employees.”


 72% of women freelancers and 64% of men freelancers surveyed say their overall mental wellbeing has improved since freelancing.

50% of freelancers surveyed say they voluntarily quit their job to pursue freelance work.

More than three in five (62%) agree that freelance was a personal decision, and the government shouldn’t classify them as an employee.

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

“Our research has several implications regarding policies that attempt to reclassify independent contractors as employees. First and foremost, if independent work extends opportunities for women who would otherwise be unable to take on employment, then such legal challenges could disproportionately affect women’s labor force participation.”

MITSloan Management Review/Deloitte

82% of part-time freelance contractors and 76% of full-time freelance contractors consider themselves to be free agents. Not employees.

U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

The self-employed have a higher median net worth than others. It is more than four times that of families of workers, and twice as high as families of retirees.


“More than 90% of hiring managers see working with independent contractors as important to meeting their business goals.”

“In volatile and unpredictable business landscapes, company leaders understand the necessity of building an agile workforce. Freelance talent plays a significant role in this goal already, and their importance will only rise.”


“Overall, the percent freelancing in 2021 remained constant at 36% of the U.S. workforce, but the past year ushered in a shift in the type of freelance work being done. This year, we found that there was a drop in temporary workers, but an increase in skilled freelancing.”

“The higher skilled nature of freelancing is clear in 51% of post-grad workers doing freelancing, up 6% since 2020, while the share of high school graduates or less freelancing has declined from 37% in 2020 to 31% this year.”

“53% of all freelancers provided skilled services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting in 2021, up from 50% in 2020.”

“51% of workers with postgraduate degrees are freelancers, up 6% since 2020.”

“44% of freelancers say they earn more freelancing than with a traditional job in 2021, this is up from 39% in 2020 and 32% in 2019.”

2020 studies


This study was done in 2019 and released in 2020

“Self-employed workers with only one job — as opposed to those juggling multiple jobs — rate their work situation higher than workers in one traditional full-time job as an employee.”


“3 in 5 freelancers say they make the same or more than they’d make working for a traditional employer.”

47% view freelancing as a long-term career

60% of freelancers say there is no amount of money that would convince them to take a traditional job.

MBO Partners

“One in 11 Americans say they want to go independent, signaling this is the new American dream.”

“Among full-time independents, the proportion saying they won’t go back to a traditional job was 61 percent in 2020, up from 53 percent in 2019.”

“Between 2011 and 2020, the proportion of independent workers saying they feel more secure working independently has soared, rising virtually every year. It started at 32 percent in 2011 and more than grew significantly to 56 percent in 2020.”

“Skilled professionals are one of the fastest-growing segments of the independent workforce, with their numbers rising in each of the past ten years. In 2011, there were 4.5 million skilled independents and in 2020 there are 7.7 million, representing a 71 percent increase.”

ADP Research

“More than 70% of 1099-M gig workers say they are working independently by their own choice, not because they can’t find a ‘traditional’ job. Most seem happy with gig work and place a premium on flexibility as a driving motivation behind their decision, over financial security or benefits.”


“Lawmakers may view freelancing as a last resort, but 75 percent of respondents chose to freelance because they prefer it to full-time work. Additionally, a little more than half of freelancers said they have access to more professional opportunities than they would as full-timers.”

2019 studies

IRS/US Treasury

“The largest share of workers with independent contractor income are those in the top quartile of earnings.”

MBO Partners

“More than half of full-time independent workers say they feel more financially secure as independents than in traditional jobs, a record high. Seven in 10 full-time independents say they plan to continue their current path.”

FreshBooks Cloud Accounting

73% of self-employed women say they have a better work-life balance; 68% of self-employed women earn the same or more money than in a traditional job; 59% of self-employed women say they have less stress; 57% of self-employed women say they’re healthier.

2018 studies

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

“79 percent of independent contractors preferred their arrangement over a traditional job”

2017 studies

US Treasury Department Office of Tax Analysis

“Some media suggest that the gig economy is a large and growing segment of the U.S. labor market, revealing a marked shift in the nature of work relationships. However, there is little empirical evidence that this is the case. The few studies that have tried to infer the size of [the] gig economy consistently find this segment of the workforce is quite small.”

2016 studies

McKinsey and Company

“Those who do independent work by choice (free agents and casual earners) report greater satisfaction with their work lives than those who do it out of necessity (the reluctants and the financially strapped). This finding holds across countries, ages, income brackets, and education levels. Free agents reported higher levels of satisfaction in multiple dimensions of their work lives than those holding traditional jobs by choice, indicating that many people value the nonmonetary aspects of working on their own terms.”

2015 studies

US Government Accountability Office

“More than 85 percent of independent contractors and the self-employed appeared content with their employment type.”

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