Economics/Class Relations

Coronavirus economic relief proposals are overlooking the 57 million Americans who are self-employed

No room for the petite bourgeoisie.

By Josh Silverman


COVID-19 has upended life for many of us, creating uncertainty for our families, our businesses, and the broader economy. In the U.S., politicians on both sides of the aisle are racing to align on relief packages that would provide in excess of $1 trillion in aid to various industries, programs, and households. While these packages rightly include support for small businesses, there is a large swath of independent workers—57 million, according to a 2019 study—whose businesses are too small to even qualify as a “small business.”

These are the microbusiness owners, the independent contractors, and the self-employed individuals who make up the emerging gig economy, and are about one-third of the total employable workforce in the U.S. They embody the spirit of entrepreneurism and drive a vital part of the economy. For example, U.S. Etsy sellers alone drove around $6.2 billion in economic output and created 1.7 million jobs in 2019. They join millions of others, from the freelance writers and designers who work behind the scenes, to the independent handymen, photographers, and fitness instructors who are always on call.


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