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Uber happy? Work and well-being in the 'Gig Economy'

Author

Listed:
  • Thor Berger
  • Carl Benedikt Frey
  • Guy Levin
  • Santosh Rao Danda

Abstract

SUMMARYWe study the rise of the so-called 'gig economy' through the lens of Uber and its drivers in the United Kingdom. Using administrative data from Uber and a new representative survey of London drivers, we explore their backgrounds, earnings, and subjective well-being. We find that the vast majority of Uber drivers are male immigrants, primarily drawn from the bottom half of the London income distribution. Most transitioned out of permanent part- or full-time jobs and about half of drivers' report that their incomes increased after partnering with Uber. After covering vehicle operation costs and Uber's service fee, we estimate that the median London driver earns about £11 per hour spent logged into the app. But while Uber drivers remain at the lower end of the London income distribution, they report higher levels of life satisfaction than other workers. Consistent with a trade-off between evaluative and emotional well-being observed among the self-employed, they also report higher anxiety levels. We hypothesize that the higher life satisfaction among Uber drivers partly reflects their preferences for flexibility and the autonomy that the platform offers. We provide suggestive evidence showing that drivers who emphasize flexibility as an important motivation to join Uber also report higher levels of subjective well-being. However, a minority of drivers who report that they would prefer work as an employee report lower levels of life satisfaction and higher levels of anxiety. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of non-monetary factors in shaping the welfare of workers in the gig economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Thor Berger & Carl Benedikt Frey & Guy Levin & Santosh Rao Danda, 2019. "Uber happy? Work and well-being in the 'Gig Economy'," Economic Policy, CEPR, CESifo, Sciences Po;CES;MSH, vol. 34(99), pages 429-477.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecpoli:v:34:y:2019:i:99:p:429-477.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/epolic/eiz007
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Vij, Akshay & Ryan, Stacey & Sampson, Spring & Harris, Susan, 2020. "Consumer preferences for on-demand transport in Australia," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 823-839.
    2. Lu, Zhuofei & Wang, Senhu & Ling, Wanying & Guo, Ya, 2023. "Gig work and mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic: A gendered examination of comparisons with regular employment and unemployment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 337(C).
    3. Shi, Junxin & Li, Xiangyong & Aneja, Y.P. & Li, Xiaonan, 2023. "Ride-matching for the ride-hailing platform with heterogeneous drivers," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 169-192.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    O18; J31; J81; D60;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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