Mashable, by Jason Abbruzzese
Startups like Uber and Airbnb, which form the core of the new “sharing economy,” can have a particularly positive effect on people with lower incomes, according to a new report.
The study, from New York University professor Arun Sundararajan and research scientist Samuel Fraiberger, analyzed data from two years of transactions provided by Getaround, a peer-to-peer car rental startup.
While consumers across various income levels saw a positive impact, people who made less money experience a particularly big boost, the study found.
Data from Uber and Airbnb was not used in this study, but it said the findings should extend to the broader sharing economy: “Perhaps the most important takeaway from our current findings, one we fully expect to persist with extensions and alternative calibrations, is that peer-to-peer rental marketplaces have a disproportionately positive effect on lower-income consumers across almost every measure.”
Presented on Friday at a National Bureau of Economic Research meeting, the study bolsters the case that companies such as Airbnb and Uber have been pushing — that they positively impact the economies in which they operate.
The sharing economy is broadly seen as positive for consumers, providing greater access and lower prices for essentials, including housing, transportation and food. However, critics have argued that these gains come at the expense of workers, who are left out when people turn to, say, an Airbnb rental rather than a hotel.
There is also concern that the benefits of the sharing economy could be outweighed by itsreinforcement of social barriers, and provide benefits only to those who have the capacity to share the things they own.
The NYU study does not touch on the labor issue, but noted that the sharing economy pushes people to own a means of generating revenue. For instance, a lower-income person may not have the ability or feel the need to own a car without the chance to make money through a platform like Uber.
“Ownership is a more significant barrier to consumption when your income or wealth is lower, and peer-to-peer rental marketplaces can facilitate inclusive and higher-quality consumption, empowering ownership enabled by revenues generated from marketplace supply, and facilitating a more even distribution of consumer value,” the study said.