UT Austin sociology doctoral candidate Katherine Hill has written about her dissertation research findings for Work in Progress on the experiences of people with disabilities who work in the gig economy.
During the recent government shutdown, approximately 800,000 workers went without pay. Some government workers turned to gig work to make ends meet: Twitter is filled with stories of workers who began driving for Uber or Lyft during the shutdown as a stopgap measure.
Government workers are not alone in turning to gig work to make ends meet. The government shutdown is one example of systemic failures that leave many Americans without a safety net. In an ongoing study, I find that people with a disability also turn to gig work to get by. People with disabilities do gig work because they need a flexible job that allows them to stop working when they can no longer work that day, and to take breaks as needed. […]
Many gig workers experience income volatility, not knowing how much they will earn in a given week and unable to meet their expenses as a result. Additionally, gig workers are not given benefits like paid sick leave, and they are only paid for the time spent completing a task. For example: rideshare drivers are not paid to drive to the passenger when picking them up or to wait for the passenger if they are running late. […]
Despite financial hardships and health issues, many of the people I interviewed said that they will continue to do gig work, for one main reason: for most, there is no other option. Even Jonathan, recovering from multiple heart surgeries, said, “I figured if I can sit in front of the TV, then I can sit in the car and drive. It hurts my chest a lot to drive. But I still do it because there’s nothing else.”
To read the full piece, see Work in Progress.
Katherine Hill is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also a Population Research Center trainee and Urban Ethnography Lab Fellow. Her research examines issues of inequality at the intersection of work and organizations, race and identity, and health and healthcare. Katherine’s dissertation uses mixed methods to examine the material and cultural characteristics of the gig economy that contribute to inequality.