Symposium on the Sharing Economy

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Research Workshop Session I: Labor in the Sharing Economy

An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Drivers in the United States

Uber, the ride-sharing company launched in 2010, has grown at an exponential rate. This presentation reviewed the first comprehensive analysis of Uber’s drivers, based on both survey and administrative data. Drivers who partner with Uber appear to be attracted to the platform in large part because of the flexibility it offers, the level of compensation, and the fact that earnings per hour do not vary much with hours worked. Uber’s drivers are more similar in terms of their age and education to the general workforce than to taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Most of Uber’s drivers had full- or part-time employment prior to joining Uber, and many continued in those positions after joining, which makes the flexibility to set their own hours all the more valuable. Uber’s drivers also often cited the desire to smooth fluctuations in their income as a reason for partnering with Uber.

Dr. Jonathan V. Hall is the head of economic research for public policy and litigation at Uber Technologies. Prior to joining Uber Technologies in 2014, Dr. Hall held similar research positions at Google, Analysis Group, and Pandora Media. Dr. Hall received an A.B. degree in economics from Harvard College in 2007, an A.M. in economics from Harvard University in 2008, and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 2010.


Can You Gig It? An Empirical Examination of the Gig-Economy and Entrepreneurship

This presentation reviewed a project that examined how the entry of gig-economy platforms influences local entrepreneurial activity. On one hand, such platforms may reduce entrepreneurial activity by offering a stable employment for the un- and under-employed. On the other hand, such platforms may enable entrepreneurship by offering work flexibility that allows the entrepreneur to redeploy resources strategically to pursue his or her nascent venture. To resolve this tension, the project team exploited a set of natural experiments, the entry of the ride-sharing platform Uber X, and the on-demand delivery platform Postmates. The team examined the effect of each on crowdfunding campaign launches at Kickstarter, the world’s largest reward-based crowdfunding platform. Results indicate a significant negative effect on crowdfunding campaign launches, and thus entrepreneurial activity, after platform entry. Strikingly, the effect appears to accrue primarily to unfunded and underfunded projects, suggesting that gig-economy platforms predominantly reduce necessity-based entrepreneurship by offering viable employment for the un- and under-employed.

Brad N. Greenwood is an assistant professor of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. His research investigates the role of information availability on decision making in the digital age (with a specific focus on health care, public health, and entrepreneurship). His research has been published in leading outlets, including Management ScienceMIS QuarterlyInformation Systems Research, and Productions and Operations Management. He received his doctorate from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, College Park. He also holds a B.S. in information technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a master’s degree in information technology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.


Labor Welfare in the Sharing Economy

Crystal Kong is an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Before joining the university, she received a Ph.D. in operations management at the University of Southern California. Kong's research interests are in information asymmetry and strategic interactions within operations management. Her research spans the areas of supply chain management, service operations, and behavioral decision making. She has published a paper in Management Science, served as an editorial review board member of Production and Operations Management, and served as a reviewer of Operations ResearchEuropean Journal of Operational ResearchProduction and Operations Management, and Naval Research Logistics.