It makes sense that workers in the sharing economy—which comprises such companies as Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy—would be different from the population at large. They're probably younger, for instance, since people who have grown up with mobile phones attached to their arms are going to be more comfortable with apps and the cloud. Data from some recent surveys allow us to start putting numbers on just how different.
The 2015 "1099 Economy Workforce Report," a survey conducted by some Silicon Valley VC-types and Stanford grads, supports the theory about young folk. It shows that 39 percent of sharing-economy workers are ages 18-24, well above the 12 percent of the U.S. workforce at large. Include workers aged 25-34, and the figure jumps to 68 percent of the sharing economy, vs. just over a third of all U.S. workers.
Sharing-economy workers also appear to be more educated. About 40 percent have at least a college degree, vs. 32 percent for the general population. A larger proportion of on-demand workers also reports having some college, although that may just be a function of college students using their cars or bikes to earn a little extra cash in their spare time.
Of course, a driver at a car-sharing service is probably going to have a different profile from someone selling cat mugs on Etsy—and there are now stats on that, too. An Uber-sponsored survey shows that about 19 percent of its drivers are ages 18-29, roughly similar to the U.S. population. But when it comes to education, the same trend holds true for Uber drivers as for sharing-economy workers in general: About 48 percent have at least a college degree, higher than the population-wide average.
What about income? Can you make a better living in the sharing economy?
Earnings per hour tell a relatively favorable story. Earnings are a median $18 an hour in the sharing economy, according to the 1099 survey, above the $17.09 median as of May 2014 for all occupations as collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In some sectors, sharing-economy workers appear to be making well more than their nonsharing equivalents. For instance, people identified as manual laborers in the sharing economy make about $15 an hour, compared with $9.67 for, say, maids and housekeeping cleaners as identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That's not the whole story, of course. Many sharing-economy workers are paying for their own car insurance, health insurance, and other perks that aren't factored in here. They're also working fewer hours—another survey, from the Boston Fed, puts the average number of hours worked per month among "informal workers" at around 10.