Who will benefit the most from the sharing economy?

Posted on March 17, 2015  /  0 Comments

It’s good that work has started on mapping out who will benefit by renting out excess capacity on assets controlled by consumers and small businesses. We have been kicking around these ideas within LIRNEasia for a while. Hopefully will get started on a project to understand how these things play out in the “real world,” as stated below.

“I wasn’t the kind of person who went around everywhere in black cars,” he says. “It felt good, it felt like I was living someone else’s life. You press a button and a town car rolls up and takes you where you want to go. I’ve heard this from people on Rent the Runaway, or from people who take better vacations because they can now afford them with Airbnb.”

It’s not clear, however, that the people who stand to benefit the most from the sharing economy in an economic model will actually gain those benefits in the real world. There’s not a lot of evidence right now that lower-income consumers are using these platforms in large numbers. In fact, there’s some evidence of the opposite. Bikeshare systems are a great example of a cheap alternative to transit that could save low-income workers a lot of money. But many cities have struggled to lure low-income riders.

Part of the barrier is logistical; you have to have a credit card and a smartphone to access many of these platforms today. But another piece may be cultural. A lot of survey data suggests that lower-income people are less trusting of their neighbors or society in general than the upper-income. And trust is a key prerequisite in any marketplace where people lend and borrow possessions with strangers.


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