“I do a little bit of surviving, you know, on the side…”
I can personally attest the the fact that the “side hustle” meme is widening income inequality for the middle class.
I make a comfortable amount of money at my day job, but I have a few side hustles all the same. I rent a room in my house on Airbnb. I think I was probably one of the 60% of respondents to their survey who answered that hosting on Airbnb allows me to “stay in my home”. But I need to clarify that I didn’t mean I absolutely couldn’t pay the mortgage without Airbnb. I just meant it allows me to rationalize living in a three bedroom house with just my girlfriend.
I also have a hobby that has turned into some non-credit lecturing at a local university. Then there are the side hustles that haven’t turned a profit yet, like learning to code. Because luckily for me I don’t have to make any money from my side hustles.
For me I see side hustles as a way to differentiate myself from my peers. The world is obviously changing quickly, although it’s not obvious exactly how it is changing, so I like to dabble in a few things that will broaden my experience in the event that middle management gets automated out of existence. If I can make a little money at the same time, and start accruing compound interest, then maybe I won’t even need a new job when my industry tanks.
The point is, I’m doing very well off of the gig economy, thanks very much. But it’s not helping me make ends meet. My ends are met with a bi-monthly direct deposit.
I doubt that I am really ‘stealing’ gig market share from people who really need to be able to make money on the side. But I am definitely enabling the argument of false causation between hustling and being successful. And in turn I am riding high on the positive impression the general public has towards hustling. It helps legitimize activities that previously would have got me labeled as gypsy or cowboy. Instead it’s viewed as perfectly acceptable, if not encouraged, for a person with a college education to engage in the gig economy.
And why am I able to hustle to begin with? Because I already own a house. I already spent a lot of money on a hobby, to become enough of an ‘expert’ to be an instructor. My full time job affords me the flexibility to go check in some guests, or leave early to teach a class. All things that people who need to side hustle to survive do not have.