The social costs of ride-hailing may be larger than previously thought

ECONOMISTS HAVE always been fond of Uber. Its willingness to battle incumbents, use of technology to match buyers and sellers, and embrace of “surge” pricing to balance supply and demand make the ride-hailing giant a dismal scientist’s dream. Steven Levitt, the author of the bestselling “Freakonomics”, called it “the embodiment of what the economists would like the economy to look like”. But if economists subjected Uber and its competitors to a cost-benefit analysis, they might not be so impressed.

This might surprise customers. A study in 2016 by researchers from Oxford University, the University of Chicago and Uber itself found sizeable benefits from ride-hailing services for consumers. Using data from 48m Uber trips taken in four American cities in 2015, they estimated the difference between how much customers were willing to pay and their actual fare. Each $1 spent on UberX rides generated a “consumer surplus” of $1.60. Across America, that surplus was estimated to be $6.8bn a year.

Drivers also benefit. Few sign up for lack of anything else, as is true of some gig work: in America roughly eight in ten have left another job to get behind the wheel. The typical American Uber driver makes $16 per hour ($10 after expenses), higher than the federal minimum wage. In London earnings after expenses come to £11 ($14) per...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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