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Understanding the Sharing Economy


  • Diane Coyle


  • Shane O'Connor


The sharing economy appears to have been growing rapidly. This paper contributes to the debate about its definition and measurement through an analysis of interviews conducted with UK platforms identifying themselves as part of the sharing economy. We conclude there are common features that enable a sufficiently clear definitional boundary, namely peer-to-peer digital matching and greater utilisation of under-used assets or skills. We find that the larger sharing economy platforms reduce costs and entry barriers for smaller platforms, contributing to a rich ecosystem. This implies a useful definition should include business-to-business peer-matching transactions, as well as business-to-consumer transactions. In addition to their economic impacts – transactions that would not otherwise occur, lower consumer prices and additional choice, the scope to earn additional income in a flexible manner, and the greater use of assets with spare capacity – all the interviewees expressed overt non-financial motivations, such as positive environmental impact, contributing to the community, and building trust. We argue this common intrinsic motivation means measurement of the sharing economy for some purposes should also include those platforms which enable free rather than monetary exchanges.

Suggested Citation

  • Diane Coyle & Shane O'Connor, 2019. "Understanding the Sharing Economy," Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE) Discussion Papers ESCoE DP-2019-04, Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE).
  • Handle: RePEc:nsr:escoed:escoe-dp-2019-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diane Coyle & David Nguyen, 2018. "Cloud Computing and National Accounting," Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE) Discussion Papers ESCoE DP-2018-19, Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE).
    2. Fleura Bardhi & Giana M. Eckhardt, 2012. "Access-Based Consumption: The Case of Car Sharing," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(4), pages 881-898.
    3. Diane Coyle, 2017. "Precarious and Productive Work in the Digital Economy," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 240(1), pages 5-14, May.
    4. Michael Luca, 2017. "Designing Online Marketplaces: Trust and Reputation Mechanisms," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 77-93.
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    More about this item


    sharing economy; digital platforms;

    JEL classification:

    • D16 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Collaborative Consumption
    • D26 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Crowd-Based Firms
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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