Many years ago, Freelancers Union ran ads on the NYC subway that read, "Welcome to Middle-Class Poverty" - a nod to the fact that health insurance is often prohibitively expensive for the self-employed, who don't benefit from an employer subsidy. We thought we were being provocative, but the last year made us prescient. Since that ad campaign ran, we've seen two trends emerge: significant growth of the independent workforce and growing income disparity. Combined, they have created something that seems paradoxical and should be impossible in the United States: Middle-Class Poverty.
You've probably seen middle-class poverty, if not experienced it firsthand. It's a young woman a college degree and crippling debt. It's a young man with a dream job but no health insurance. It's owning a smartphone to keep up with clients when you can barely keep up with rent.
About one-in-seven Americans are officially in poverty, but many more find themselves squeezed between rising expenses, stagnating wages, and thin benefits. Currently, close to one-third of the U.S. workforce is not linked to a traditional, 9-to-5 job. While client-to-client work used to be the purview of just the creative industry, it's becoming commonplace in everything from accounting to technology to health care. Though a shifting economy initially set this in motion, the more the workforce trends toward flexibility and mobility, the more attractive and viable freelancing becomes.
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