Entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and Daymond John may extol the virtues of having a side hustle, but for many Americans, these side gigs are more than just a passion project, they're necessary second or third jobs. And that speaks to a wider problem.
About 40 percent of Americans have some sort of side hustle and earn roughly $690 a month, according to a recent Bankrate survey. At the same time, the crowdfunding site GoFundMe has raised more than $5 billion since its launch in 2010.
Americans need to examine the underlying reasons why so many people need to rely so heavily on these new money-making ventures, says Alissa Quart, executive director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and author of the recently released book, "Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America."
Many of these companies have almost a benevolent reputation, but they're actually taking advantage of "social problems that are being advertised as pluses," Quart tells CNBC Make It.
Middle class life is now 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago, Quart writes, and families are dealing with the soaring costs of housing and college, all while the average paycheck has the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago.
PayScale recently reported that real wages — your take-home pay, adjusted for inflation — have not bounced back to the pre-recession levels of 2007. Even in cities where the job market is hot and wages are on the rise, like San Francisco and San Jose, California, residents' purchasing power is down.