Ellen Harpel and The Stephen S. Fuller Institute at George Mason University have released a new research report describing the role of Gig and Independent Work in the Washington Region’s Economy.

The gig economy and independent work arrangements receive much national attention, but their role in regional economies is not well understood. This report describes national research on the evolving ways work is performed and presents several measures of gig and independent work in the Washington region.

Gig and independent work does not just refer to Uber drivers and other online platform workers, nor does it only mean the full-time self-employed. Gig and independent work includes a variety of full- and part-time activities for earning income outside of an employer-employee relationship. It encompasses many types of people working in a variety of ways for different purposes, making it difficult to assess the economic importance.

Gig and independent work is growing faster than employer-based work. It is becoming a meaningful (10-15%) part of the Washington regional economy, but it is not taking over. Much of the recent growth in gig and independent work appears to be in supplemental activity or small side businesses rather than as a primary source of income.


Most people still work in jobs with an employer, but increasing numbers are doing gig and independent work and will do so at some point – or multiple points – over the course of their careers. Technology, business, and demographic trends all suggest that more individuals will want to work this way and more establishments will want to engage talent in this way.

We are not all turning into gig and independent workers, but we will do more gig and independent work as part of our working lives.

The full report can be downloaded here, and an Executive Summary is also available. “Gig and Independent Work in the Washington Regional Economy” is part of a series of reports on The Changing Nature of the Work in the Washington Region, all of which can be viewed here.