The “Sharing” Economy: Labor, Inequality, and Social Connection on for‐Profit Platforms
For social analysts, what has come to be called the “sharing economy” raises important questions. After a discussion of history and definitions, we focus on 3 areas of research in the for‐profit segment, also called the platform economy: social connection, conditions for laborers, and inequalities. Although we find that some parts of the platform economy, particularly Airbnb, do foster social connection, there are also ways in which even shared hospitality is becoming more like conventional exchange. With respect to labor conditions, we find they vary across platforms and the degree to which workers are dependent on the platform to meet their basic needs. On inequality, there is mounting evidence that platforms are facilitating person‐to‐person discrimination by race. In addition, platforms are advantaging those who already have human capital or physical assets, in contrast to claims that they provide widespread opportunity or even advantage less privileged individuals.