When It Comes to Uber, Miss Daisy May be Driving You

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Looks like it’s Miss Daisy’s turn to take the wheel.

A growing number of seniors are turning to the gig economy and outfits like Uber to earn supplemental income, according to a new study published Wednesday by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

The report pooled an anonymized sample of more than 260,000 Chase customers over a roughly three-year window dating back to October 2012. Researchers found that the number of Americans who earned income from what they refer to as the “online platform economy” had climbed from 0.1 percent to 4.2 percent between late 2012 and September 2015.

And when the researchers extrapolated their findings to cover the entire economy, they found that more than 400,000 seniors bring in some income from the gig economy.

“An increasing number of seniors are supplementing their income through the online platform economy,” the report says. “Many online platforms are especially well-suited for seniors in that they permit flexible work and allow people to generate income from accumulated assets.”

The report notes that only about 1 percent of seniors earn money through the gig economy, but “further growth in participation by seniors appears quite possible.” And among those who do supplement their income through gigs and apps, many rely on these jobs for a significant portion of their income.

Seniors who earned income from labor-focused gigs like Uber brought in 28 percent of it over 12 months through such services, compared with just 26 percent for all ages. Seniors who profited from capital-based gigs like Airbnb, meanwhile, brought in 11.5 percent of their incomes through those opportunities, compared with just 10.7 percent for all ages.

“In other words, those seniors who did participate in online platforms were more reliant on them for income than younger adults on average,” the report says.


Seniors participating in the gig economy relied on it for a greater share of their income than younger age groups. ANDREW SOERGEL FOR USN≀ SOURCE: JPMORGAN CHASE INSTITUTE


Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 years old were found to be the most likely to participate in the gig economy, with more than 5 percent of the demographic earning money from such services. But the age group was also found to be the least reliant on the gig economy as a percentage of income.

“This suggests that while much of the attention paid to the ‘gig economy’ has focused on millennials, online platforms might, in fact, be a more important source of income for other age groups, including retirees and individuals with families,” the report says.

 

Indeed, a report last year from Uber and the Benenson Strategy Group indicated that 39 percent of new UberX drivers who had no prior experience as a professional driver were over the age of 50. All told, about 24 percent of the company’s drivers were 50 or older, compared with 30 percent between the ages of 30 and 39.

About 3 percent of the company’s drivers came out of retirement to work for the service. AARP also has highlighted becoming an Uber driver and getting involved in the gig economy as a way for older Americans to bring in extra income.

“Going forward, policymakers should pay close attention to this phenomenon and consider how to protect and promote the welfare of all platform workers, including seniors,” the new report says. “Social safety net programs like unemployment insurance, workplace benefits and other protections available to most workers under the law are often inaccessible to platform workers, who are commonly classified as independent contractors.”

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