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What the 'Gig Economy' Looks Like in Cities

An estimate of where businesses with no employees—like Uber drivers or AirBnB hosts—have grown.
J'accuse...Seattle!Ted S. Warren/AP

The rise of the internet and digital technology has disrupted industry after industry, from the way we shop, bank, and consume media to the way we make restaurant reservations, hail rides, and find places to stay when we travel. But now it appears that digital technologies are disrupting and reshaping our cities and metropolitan areas, too.

A big part of this has been the ongoing transformation of traditional jobs into essentially freelance “gigs.” Companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, among others, have created online marketplaces to transform traditional jobs, like driving taxis or working in hotels, into independent work. The “gig economy” refers to the growing share of employment and the economy that is made up of this independent work, where apps and digital technology essentially match freelance workers to customers and service providers.