Abstract The contention that membership in work organizations has ill effects upon individual well-being was tested by comparing national survey data for 1,902 members and 183 self-employed workers. Formerly established demographic differences between self-employed and wage-and-salary workers were replicated. While major differences were not revealed in work values, measures of characteristics of the work setting showed that the self-employed enjoy more enriching job requirements, opportunities for self-fulfilment and skill-utilization, autonomy, physical working conditions, authority over other persons, resources with which to do the job, and several other generally highly prized features of their job settings. Members reported more friendly relations with co-workers, greater job security, and more convenient hours. All in all the self-employed appeared to have more favorable job settings: nonetheless they showed only a slight edge over members in job satisfaction and role strain, and no edge at all in mental health. Multiple classification analysis supported the interpretation of these findings as evidence that organizational membership has a positive net effect upon psychological outcomes. The evidence presented is consistent with the conclusion that self-employment, despite its numerous other advantages, does not provide workers with the greater psychological benefits promised by the American dream.