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Changing patterns in informal work participation in the United States 2013–2015


  • Anat Bracha
  • Mary A. Burke
  • Arman Khachiyan


In light of the weak labor market conditions in the United States from 2008 until recently, one might have expected that participation in alternative income-generating activities, such as informal side-jobs, would have increased during that period. By the same logic, participation in informal work should have declined more recently, as conditions in the formal labor market improved. However, recent technological innovations have created a number of new opportunities for engaging in informal work. Such innovations may have promoted structural increases in informal work participation; if so we would expect informal work participation to remain elevated or increase further even as the economy improves. To test these predictions the authors designed the Survey of Informal Work Participation, fielded within the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?s Survey of Consumer Expectations. The survey was fielded in December 2013 and again in January 2015, on two separate, nationally representative samples. The first survey was designed mainly to assess the extent and intensity of participation in paid informal work activities and its determinants, the types of activities engaged in, and the extent to which such activities helped individuals to compensate for negative economic shocks during and after the recession. The second survey was designed to follow up on the main outcomes of the first and to determine whether the motivations for engaging in informal work and/or the types of people drawn to such work, had changed as the labor market improved.

Suggested Citation

  • Anat Bracha & Mary A. Burke & Arman Khachiyan, 2015. "Changing patterns in informal work participation in the United States 2013–2015," Current Policy Perspectives 15-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbcq:2015_010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Colin Camerer & Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein & Richard Thaler, 1997. "Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 407-441.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2007. "Do Workers Work More if Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 298-317, March.
    3. Anat Bracha & Mary A. Burke, 2014. "Informal work in the United States: evidence from survey responses," Current Policy Perspectives 14-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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    Cited by:

    1. Iain W. Long & Vito Polito, 2017. "Job Search, Unemployment Protection and Informal Work in Advanced Economies," CESifo Working Paper Series 6763, CESifo.

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    JEL classification:

    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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