Study: Side Hustles and The Gender Pay Gap

The Ascent Staff
By: The Ascent Staff

Our Research Experts


Image source: Getty Images

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Sometimes a full-time job isn’t quite enough to make ends meet, and it’s not unusual for people to take on a side gig (or two) to help their paychecks stretch until the next payday. Other folks grab a side job for some extra spending money, another way to add to their savings account, or more variety in their professional lives.

We surveyed over 1,000 respondents and identified nearly 500 who had at least one side hustle to learn more about why people work extra jobs and how much extra they’re really bringing in. Does the well-documented gender pay gap extend to side hustles?

Read on to discover what we found.

Summary of key findings

  • Almost half the survey respondents had some kind of side hustle, and over three quarters of them think it is worth it.
  • 61% of women and 54% of men said they'd struggle to make ends meet without a side hustle.
  • More than two-thirds of Americans worry about their monthly bills -- and almost half don't always pay them on time.
  • On average, women's side jobs bring in less than men, both hourly and annually, even though they're clocking in slightly more hours.
  • At 35%, the hourly income gap between men and women for side jobs is far greater than the national average gender pay gap.
  • 24% of men and 18% of women said that their work on the side could lead to a full-time job.

The need for a side hustle

59% of women and 51% of men said they used their side hustle to help pay for regular living expenses.

Of the 493 respondents who had a side hustle, we asked whether they held one due to financial necessity or other reasons. We found that a big chunk of them do it because they need to – a solid 35% of men and 51% of women said their side job was due to financial need. While over half of both men and women said they had their side hustle to help them pay for regular living expenses, women were more likely than men to be in that predicament.

81% of men and 61% of women with a side hustle also had a full-time job.

We discovered that most respondents (men at 68% and women at 72%) worried every month about their impending bills. We also identified that 45% of men and 52% of women don't always pay those bills on time. These two factors could certainly impact the need for someone to obtain a side hustle or two. We believe this is further evidence that many people who have side jobs, particularly women, have them because they need the money to pay their bills.

People are struggling to pay their bills and more and more people are taking on side hustles to help cover them. We were looking to learn more about the connection, so we asked respondents outright if they'd struggle to pay their bills without their extra gig. We found that more than half of both men (54%) and women (61%) admitted they'd have a really hard time making ends meet without the income from their side gig.

Who works and earns more?

We checked the average hourly income for both men and women and also determined how many hours they worked each week. Men averaged quite a bit more than women ($14.23 compared to $9.46, respectively). Also, women averaged just a bit more working time in their side hustles – 13.4 hours per week compared to 13.1 weekly hours for men. The hourly income gap between men and women is significant and far greater than the national average of the gender pay gap (around 20% nationally, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, while this side hustle wage gap sits at around 35%).

80% of women and 74% of men said their side hustle was worth the extra money.

The above findings meant we were not surprised when we calculated monthly income based on average income and hours worked. Even though women, on average, worked more hours than men did, they earned substantially less. A strong majority of both men and women, though, said that their side hustle was worth it. Interestingly, women were more likely (80%) than men (74%) to believe their side hustles were worth it, despite the lower income.

In turn, the average annual side-hustle income showed a discrepancy as well, with the average woman earning close to $3,000 less than the average man over the course of a year.

To wrap up our financial analysis, we queried our respondents about their total income from all sources. Men averaged $53,667 while women tallied $45,943, on average. This is a gap of around 15%, which is more in line with the national average.

60% of women and 65% of men with side hustles said they had a healthy work-life balance.

By their very nature, side gigs often come with inconsistent hours, a fact that our survey confirmed. Men, though, were more likely to have consistent hours each workweek than their female peers (61% compared to 52%, respectively).

In addition to having more consistent hours, men were also more likely to have control over their working hours than women. Seventy-one percent of male respondents and 64% of female respondents were in a position to determine when and how much they worked. Side gigs can take many forms; while a restaurant employee might rely on a manager to set a schedule, there is more freedom and flexibility for those who are independent contractors or freelancers, such as ride-sharing drivers or food delivery order fillers.

We also checked to see who would be more likely to have a side gig that could eventually lead to a full-time job. There were fewer positive answers here overall, but again, men ticked “yes” more often – they responded positively almost a quarter of the time, while only 18% of women did so. This is further evidence that men, on average, seem more likely than women to have good side jobs – they tend to have more consistent hours, more control over those hours, and more full-time job potential than women do.

Side-hustle skills

To learn more about what our respondents’ side hustles entailed, we asked them to note whether or not supplies, training, equipment, a quality vehicle, or certification were required. Women were far more likely (39% compared to 26% of men) to answer that they didn’t need anything special for their side job. This could be due to the fact that women, who are more likely to seek side employment because they want to help make ends meet at home, might be more likely to take on a side job quickly. In such cases, this could lead them to target or accept jobs that do not need a particular skill set to successfully make money.

In other categories, women were more likely than men to need specific supplies, while men were more likely to require a quality vehicle to properly do their job (probably due to the fact that men were more likely to drive for ride-sharing services. At Uber, for example, only 27% of the workforce is female, according to Business of Apps).

Nearly half of all respondents noted their side gig required specialized skills, but women were a little less likely to require them than their male peers. Popular side jobs that may require a certain level of expertise include those involving photography, party planning, and tutoring. However, with added skills likely comes a higher payday.

Finally, we asked when these employees developed the skills needed for their side gigs. Many had them before they even considered starting their side hustle (37% of men and 41% of women), which means they likely branched out to a side job that took advantage of the skill set they already possessed.

Earning less, but covering the gaps

While side jobs aren't exclusive to either men or women, our survey revealed that women are far more likely to seek a side job than men because they have a financial need. At the same time, they're earning far less than men, both on an hourly and annual basis, even though they're clocking in slightly more hours.

If you're working hard to erase your debt, make ends meet, or stock up for a rainy day and have considered taking on a side hustle (or two), there may be other options out there. The team at The Ascent is right here to help.


We surveyed over 1,000 people focusing on a core sample of 493 who had at least one side hustle. 232 of our respondents were male, 256 respondents were female, and five did not identify as male or female. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 81 with an average age of 36.6. To ensure that respondents were taking our survey seriously, all respondents were required to identify and correctly answer a carefully decoyed attention-check question.

In many cases, questions and responses have been rephrased for clarity or brevity. To help ensure statistical accuracy, outliers have been removed where appropriate. These data rely on self-reporting, and strict statistical testing has not been performed. Potential issues with self-reported data include, but are not limited to, exaggeration, selective memory, and attribution errors on the part of respondents.

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.