Following a sample of 260,000 sharing economy earners over three years, this JPMorgan Chase Institute study uses big data to explore the impact of platforms like Uber and Airbnb on income. The study also tracks transactions of one million bank customers over the same period to examine overall income volatility, a trend closely tied to growing participation in the sharing economy (in this study, referred to as the ‘the online platform economy’).

Like in many parts of the world, income volatility has been on a steady rise across the U.S. Even small changes in financial circumstance can lead to big challenges for the typical American household, which tends to under-save. To improve financial security, many are turning to opportunities in the online platform economy. Between 2012 and 2015 alone, the number of people earning an income through platforms increased 47-fold to 10.3 million or 4% of the U.S. population. This study takes a closer look at these individuals and reveals different motivations, behaviours, trends, and impacts for workers in the sharing economy.

Study highlights and key findings:

  • Labour platforms (e.g. Uber) grew more rapidly than capital platforms (e.g. Airbnb), but 60% more people participated in capital platforms than labour platforms.
  • The online platform economy was a secondary source of income, and participants did not increase their reliance on platform earnings over time.
  • Labour platform participants were active 56% of the time. While active, platform earnings equated to 33% of total income. Capital platform participants were active 32% of the time. While active, platform earnings equated to 20% of total income.
  • Earnings from labour platforms offset dips in non-platform income, but earnings from capital platforms supplemented non-platform income. In other words, capital income provides opportunity to save, while income from labour provides a margin for financial shocks.