How many Americans are self-employed? Here’s all you need to know about the percentage of self-employed people in the US.
What percentage of US workers are self-employed?
10.1% of the workforce is currently self-employed as of January 2023. That’s almost 16.2 million people. This figure includes both incorporated (6.56 million) and unincorporated (9.635 million) businesses.
The percentage of self-employed people has consistently grown over the past few years with a drop in 2020. But in 2022, the number of self-employed topped any previous year in the last 10 years.
However, since 1994, the rate has declined from 12.1%.
The number of self-employed Americans in the last 10 years:
Here are the number of self-employed by year:
|Year||Number of self-employed |
(Number in thousands)
What’s the average income of self-employed workers?
On average, self-employed people are wealthier than non-self-employed. In 2019, the median net worth of self-employed families was $380,000, which was over four times that of other worker families ($90,000). The mean net worth of self-employed families was $2.7 million versus $747,000 (for all families).
However, this number is somewhat skewed as a few self-employed families are clearly outearning the rest. Overall, wealth isn’t evenly distributed among self-employed people. For example, JPMorgan Chase Institute reports that white small business owners have 2.5x more liquid wealth than Black business owners.
Self-employment after covid
How has the number of self-employed people kept up after covid-19?
The number of self-employed tends to rise during recessions. It fell during covid by 14.2% (from 14.8 million in the second quarter of 2019 to 12.7 million in the second quarter of 2020). In comparison, the number of non-self-employed decreased by 15.5% and went from 137.3 million to 115.9 million.
In 2019, self-employed people employed about 31.4 million employees in the US. However, in 2021, that number fell to 28.3 million.
The number of employees employed by self-employed men (24.7 million) fell to 21.2 million in 2021. The number of employees hired by women (6.7 million) rose slightly, to 7.1 million in 2021.
How many people do self-employed people employ?
Together with their employees, self-employed people made up 30% of the US workforce in 2019.
In 2019, 26% of self-employed men had payrolls versus 16% of self-employed women. Self-employed men with employees hired 9.4 workers on average. Women, on the other hand, hired 7.6 workers on average.
What are the demographics of self-employed Americans?
63.1% of self-employed workers are men versus 36.9% who are women. In contrast, non-self-employed workers are split evenly between men and women (51.3% versus 48.7%).
74.6% of self-employed people are 40+ years old (in contrast to 51.9% of non-self-employed workers). 24% are 60+, while this age group accounts for 11.3% of non-self-employed workers.
|Age||Percentage who are self-employed|
65.4% of self-employed workers are married. 50.3% of non-self-employed workers are married.
10.7% of white workers are self-employed. Also those who identify as Asians have a relatively higher degree of self-employment at 9.4%. That same rate is 8.6% for Hispanic workers and 5% for Black workers.
Self-employed people tend to have a larger proportion of foreign-born workers at 21.4% versus 16.7% of non-self-employed workers.
In terms of occupation, most of those who are self-employed work in management, business, science, and arts occupations (40.8%). 19.8% work in service occupations, 17.3% work in sales and office occupations, 14.7% work in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, and 7.4% work in production, transportation, and material moving occupations.
|Self-employed occupation||Percentage of self-employed|
|Management, business, science, arts||40.8%|
|Sales and office||17.3%|
|Natural resources, construction, maintenance||14.7%|
|Production, transportation, material moving||7.4%|
Do US workers want to become self-employed?
Interestingly, a study by Freshbooks shows that 40% of employed Americans say they want to be self-employed, with half of those saying it’s their number one goal in life. 54% of Americans under 35 plan to start their own businesses in the next few years. In other words, there’s a big gap between the self-employment rate and the number of people who wish to become self-employed.
Harvard Business Review reports that out of 928 independent workers, 7 in 10 said independent work is less risky than traditional employment. This increased from 53% in 2019 to 68% in 2021. Out of 5,312 employees, 3 in 10 say the same. This figure increased from 18% in 2018 to 29% in 2021.
What’s more, Freshbooks reports that 95% of self-employed people are planning on staying self-employed for the foreseeable future. 68% report better work-life balance than when they were employed, 60% experience less stress, and 46% are in better health.
A big reason for people to pursue self-employment is career control, job fulfillment, and financial gain. 15% say they do it for family reasons with men and women equally likely to cite it as their reason for starting a business.
Notably, 8 in 10 women believe their careers will advance more quickly as self-employed due to gender discrimination in the workplace. At the same time, women entrepreneurs see major benefits with being self-employed. 80% of female entrepreneurs are happier with their careers, 70% say they have more career control, 75% earn the same or more money, 69% improve their work-life balance, and 78% avoid additional work stress.
Self-employment by country
What’s the percentage of self-employed people in the world?
The World Bank reports that the number of self-employed was 46.4% of the global workforce in 2019. However, this figure has decreased from 55.9% in 1991.
According to OECD, the US is number 38 among 39 countries. 6.6% of US workers are self-employed, as per this report.
However, OECD defines a self-employed person as “employment of employers, workers who work for themselves, members of producers’ co-operatives, and unpaid family workers.” That’s a far broader scope than the BLS’s definition of self-employed, incorporated and unincorporated companies.
The rate of self-employment in the top-ranking countries:
|Country||Percentage who are self-employed|
There you have it! Now you know how many Americans are self-employed. Self-employment is on the rise and with the gig economy, it’s likely that more people will take on part-time or full-time self-employment.
What data point struck out to you the most?
Let me know in the comments below.