8 June 2009

photograph courtesy of artist Jo-Anne Balcaen

"Every few months, Venkatesh goes to the same set of coffee shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn and talks to people who come in and sit down....Venkatesh also asks people if they work for themselves. Over the years, he has observed the rise in the number of people who say yes. This year, he estimated, at least half of his coffee-shop sample was made up of the self-employed. Increasingly, they talk about their fading prospects. In 2005, 16 percent in Manhattan said they were out of work, were looking or had recently given up looking. In April of this year, the figure rose to 37 percent in Brooklyn and spiked to 53 percent in Manhattan. Many of the coffee-shop patrons told Venkatesh that they had maxed out their credit cards and had no savings.
... Venkatesh sees a difference in how freelancers talk about the recession compared with workers who have been laid off. "They're more alone, and they can't help but feel like they did something wrong because they're losing relationships with individual clients" he says. "They think of themselves as ministering to their clients, so they also feel guilty about no longer helping them."

Emily Bazelon "What happened to all those liberated, self reliant, self branded free agents?" New York Times Magazine, June 7 2009.

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