Does the Sharing Economy Increase Inequality Within the Eighty Percent?: Findings From a Qualitative Study of Platform Providers
The sharing economy has generated controversy for its effects on labor conditions, wages and the distributions of income and wealth. In this paper we present evidence for a previously unrecognized effect: increased income inequality among the bottom 80% of the distribution. On the basis of interviews with U.S. providers on three for-profit platforms (Airbnb, RelayRides and TaskRabbit) we find that providers are highly educated and many have well-paying full-time jobs. They use the platforms to augment their incomes. Furthermore, many are engaging in manual labor, including cleaning, moving and other tasks that are traditionally done by workers with low educational attainment, suggesting a crowding-out effect.