Framebuilder Survey Analysis: Full-Time Builder Livelihood Part II

Still focusing on full-time builder livelihoods, let’s delve more into incomes, both from framebuilding and within the household more broadly.

Let’s first look at income from framebuilding alone:

What is your typical recent annual income from the framebuilding business?

  • 47 responses
  • Mean: $32,660
  • Median: $30,000
  • Mode: $50,000

With median and mean being pretty close, we see a less skewed distribution than with the “all builders” analysis. The mode–the most frequent answer in the sample–being $50,000 probably just reflects a number of builders giving a rough, rounded estimate of their income. The distribution nonetheless reveals that, even amongst full-time builders, quite a few folks are making under $20k a year!

Do you engage in other work for income apart from framebuilding? (not including spousal/partner income)

  • 53.6% of full-time builders engage in other work:
    • 23% do other work for less than than they make from framebuilding
    • 30% engage in other work for more

So what about other income flows into the household?

Many builders are married or in partnerships, so perhaps the household is the more relevant level of analysis.

Does your spouse or partner work in the framebuilding business?

Of those full-time builders who are married:

  • 4% of builders have a spouse who works full-time in the framebuilding business
  • 21% of builders have a spouse who works part-time in that business.

What about other work within the household, beyond the framebuilding business?

If you are married or in a domestic/life partnership, does your spouse/partner work in a different line of work?

  • Yes – full time 53%
  • Yes – part time/informally 21%
  • No 9%
  • Not married 17.5%

Looking at all full-time builders, close to 75% of them (~74%) live within a household in which a spouse/partner is doing some paid work outside of the framebuilding business.

Looking at only on those full-time builders who are married/partnered:

  • Partner working full time: 64%
  • Partner working part time: 26%
  • Partner not working: 12%

All together, we can say that:

  1. Most (~90%) married/partnered, full-time framebuilders have a spouse working outside of that framebuilding business in some capacity.
  2. Of those full-time builders who have spouses/partners, about 26% have that partner working in the framebuilding business in some capacity, but most (21%) that do so are part-time. Or, put differently, only 4% of full-time builders have a spouse/partner working full-time in the framebuilding business.
  3. Of those married/partnered full-time builders, only 6% have a spouse/partner who reports not working in any location or capacity. One could possibly infer that these are the only “framebuilding households” in which the framebuilding income alone is sufficient for the household in total, although I also included questions about whether a builder felt they could make a living from building alone (see analyses below).

How much are these working partners earning?

How much does your spouse/partner earn in comparison to the framebuilding business in a typical year?

  • More than the framebuilding business: 44%
  • About the same: 13%
  • Less: 25%
  • Not married/partnered: 18%

Thus, about 57% of full-time builders have an additional source of income at the household level that equals or exceeds the framebuilding income.

A different way of thinking about it is that, for full-time builders with an employed partner, 53% of those partners make more than the builder.

Beyond just looking at these income sources within the household, we can also see how builders themselves view the situation.

To that end, I asked:

Does the income generated by your framebuilding business currently sustain what you consider to be a reasonable/comfortable livelihood without outside income from other work or from a spouse/partner?

  • Yes: 36%
  • No: 64%

Given that builders might not actually be pursuing a livelihood from framebuilding alone, I also asked:

Is it a goal of yours for the framebuilding business to sustain a reasonable/comfortable livelihood without outside income from other work or from a spouse/partner?

  • Yes, it is a goal: 53%
  • No, not a goal: 10.5%
  • It already does provide a livelihood: 37%

We can see this more clearly in the intersection between these two variables.

What about these full-time builders not making a living who want to?

Of those who report not making a sufficient livelihood from framebuilding, a majority (53%) would like to be making a living, with only 11% not pursuing the goal.

Another attempt I made at evaluating a builder’s life, livelihood and business goals was the following:

If you could make a reasonable living doing so, would you prefer to work for a larger firm and be paid a salary for doing this same work?

As I saw it, this question measured the degree to which a builder was pursuing the work itself as a goal (meaning the fabrication dimensions of the job) rather than a larger/more holistic “lifestyle” of business ownership, promotion and branding, etc.

Based on what I’ve heard in builder interviews over the years, the results weren’t particularly surprising to me, with the majority of builders not interested or unsure:

  • Yes: 9%
  • Unsure: 24%
  • No: 60%
  • 7% responded “Other” and included an open-ended response that will be incorporated in other qualitative analyses of livelihood

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