The top demographic trends of the on-demand workforce

SherpaShare On-Demand Workforce Survey

The top demographic trends of the on-demand workforce

SherpaShare, the largest independent on-demand worker support app, surveyed the on-demand workforce on demographics, income, and work trends, with nearly 1,000 verified responses.

SherpaShare helps tens of thousands of workers manage their independent work and regularly surveys the on-demand workforce. For example, in July we released what rideshare drivers earn per trip in 20 cities across the US. Also, a year ago, our blog looked at how women were represented among on-demand rideshare drivers. This report updates that as part of five major demographic trends covered, across not just gender, but age, work frequency, self-reported income, and services.

Responses for this survey were collected between September 22nd and October 5th, 2015. The survey was distributed within the SherpaShare app and on the SherpaShare blog. While the majority (over 90%) of respondents were existing SherpaShare users, it was not a requirement. The requirement was working for an on-demand service, having a valid email and US zip code. 963 responses were verified, the largest independent driver survey. By comparison, Uber released their own commissioned study on its driving partners in January 2015 with 601 responses.

Over 90% of the 963 respondents drove for either Uber, Lyft, or both - in addition to others. 18% of respondents worked for other services IN ADDITION to Lyft and Uber, and 8% DID NOT driver for Uber or Lyft. Over 30 other independent types of independent work were reported, included from 20 other on-demand services. The most common after Uber and Lyft were Postmates, Sidecar, Instacart, and DoorDash.


Seniors make less per month than younger drivers for the same amount of driving

    • Key Stat: Drivers over age 55 report making around 20% less per month on average, and the difference tends to increase with hours driven
  • Senior earnings gap

    A possible explanation may be that seniors may be less active at strategizing, searching the internet for every possible angle to maximize revenue, and therefore not as tuned into strategies or tips at increasing efficiency. Another possible explanation is they could get tired of long driving shifts, and over report their ‘active’ hours. Or maybe those over 55 are more likely to be conservative when asked their gross monthly income off the top of their heads. Whatever (combination of factors, most likely) it is, the trend in our survey data is clear - there’s a gap in earnings between seniors and the rest of the driving population.

    Trend #4

    The majority of on-demand drivers - 3/4ths - change their hours-per-week schedule over time

    • Key Stats: 3/4ths of drivers who’ve driven over 3 months changed the number of hours per week they’re working. 41% are eventually driving less, and 35% driving more.
  • Shifting Work Schedule

    The trend that the majority of drivers change their driving schedules makes sense. Most drivers enter the workforce to earn supplemental income, and depending on their experience and financial needs, will change hours worked. This underscores the appeal of work flexibility among on-demand workers. For example, if you start by driving 11-15 hours per week, there’s a 73% chance that you’ll be driving more or less hours after 3 months.

    Many new drivers are unaware of what financial outcomes to expect, so will adjust accordingly. Interesting to note, 41% of drivers who have been driving between 3 and 5 months reported working less than when they originally started. In addition, 41% of drivers working between 3 months and 24 months reported working less than when they started.

    Trend #3

    Most current active drivers are relatively new to the industry, with 2/3rds working less than 6 months

    • Key Stats: 18% of active drivers have been driving for less than 2 months. About 2/3rds (65%) have been driving for 6 months or less.
  • Renewing Workforce

    Consistent with our results from last year, it’s clear that ridesharing, in general, is a business with a constantly-refreshing workforce. At any given time, a supermajority of drivers started driving within the last year. Ridesharing companies might reply that this could be explained by the number of drivers still growing quickly overall. Without a clear metric for “quit rate” it’s not easy to know for sure, and it’s not unreasonable to think that both could be true at the same time: increasing numbers of people continue to give ridesharing and/or delivery a shot, and most of those that try it out don’t stick with it over the long haul.

    Trend #2

    1/5th of on-demand drivers are female, with over-representation among ‘middle-aged’ women.

    • Key Stat: Women continue to make up 18.9% of the ridesharing driver market, but are 22% of drivers between 40 and 55, and 26% of drivers under 25.
  • Women Drivers

    The overall percentage of women drivers is consistent with our October 2014 report.

    Women are underrepresented in rideshare driving for the 26-39 age groups, whereas they’re relatively more common in middle age, and dropping off sharply after that -- far more senior men than women doing on-demand driving, so far. Intuitively this dip during modern society’s primary child-rearing years would makes sense, though it might not be the only explanation.

    Ridesharing companies might argue that female over-representation in <25 and 40-55 groups might be an indicator of its low barrier to entry -- women who might have fewer opportunities relative to their need to make money could be taking advantage of on-demand driving’s flexibility. Although it’s difficult to pin down without deeper study, these trends do make sense if we think about the role that flexible-hour gigs like rideshare driving and delivery offer to working mothers. As Carolyn Said from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in Why Do Women Like Driving for Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber:

    “Flexibility is very important for workers who have constraints, for example, because of children or other family commitments,” said Enrico Moretti, a labor economist at UC Berkeley. “Being able to start and stop working as much as they want is important for all workers, but relatively more important for women.” Bridget Santos, 51, exemplifies squeezing driving in between family obligations. She leaves her Oakland home before 7 every morning to drop off her kids at three different San Francisco schools. Then she gets coffee, turns on the Lyft app and drives until it’s time to pick up the first kid at 3 p.m. “It’s worked out wonderfully,” she said.”

    Trend #1

    Women drive more part-time, earn less than men

    • Key Stats: On average, female drivers report making 34% less gross driving income per month per person than men ($1,118 vs. $1,497, a difference of $379/month), but are far more likely to drive part time -- men are 25% more likely to drive 30-40 hrs/week, and 40% more likely than women to drive over 40 hours per week..
  • Women Drivers Time Worked

    It’s easy to see an earnings disparity and fit it into the existing narrative that has been historically true: that women make less money, on average, for the same work performed. In the ridesharing industry, however, that’s not the case, as rates per hour and per mile are fixed in the app regardless of a driver’s gender, whereas salaries in the general economy have a high degree of individual discretion. Primarily, women make less per month than men because they are significantly more likely than men to drive part-time.

    For more detailed charts for each trend, see the Appendix

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    uber, lyft, demographics, gender, earnings

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