Better Life Lab

Sleepless in the Gig Economy

The life of a gig-worker can keep you up at night


Episode Notes

With the advent of the New Deal, employers were expected to guarantee workers a measure of security—a fair wage, a reasonable number of hours, benefits like retirement and health insurance. Recent years have seen a rise in “non-standard” work arrangements—independent contractors and gig workers who work without benefits or job protections.

Gig-work platforms make the tantalizing promise of flexibility and freedom, but that can come at a deceptively steep price for many gig workers: low and variable wages, unpredictable schedules, and paltry benefits. Trying to make a living this way is also enormously stressful—one study of gig workers found that the more employment insecurity they experienced during the day, the more their nights became fitful, sleepless, and anxiety-ridden.


Cherri Murphy, a pastor and former ride-share driver, now trying to organize workers with Gig Workers Rising.
Quan D. Mai, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published several articles on the new normal of gig work.


After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy got Hijacked, Bergguen Institute’s Future of Capitalism & the Platform Cooperativism Consortium

A Brief History of the Gig, Veena Dubal, 2020

The battle for the future of “gig” work, Sarah Jaffe, Vox

Rideshare Drivers United

Why Precarious Work Is Bad for Health: Social Marginality as Key Mechanisms in a Multi-National Context, Macmillan, Shanahan, 2021

Gig Economy in the U.S. – Statistics and Facts


About the Show

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate. All episodes