Uber Drivers Not Immune to Pay Gap

Researchers find women drivers at the ride-sharing firm aren't earning as much as their male counterparts, too.
By: | February 9, 2018 • 2 min read

If you think the gig economy might be the answer to gender wage disparity, think again—at least when it comes to a car-sharing service such as Uber.

Research conducted by two economists from the University of Chicago found that men working for Uber earned 7 percent more per hour than women, despite the firm’s reportedly gender-blind algorithm for work assignments.


More precisely, the study of more than 2 million drivers, titled The Gender Earnings Gap in the Gig Economy, found men earned $21.28 an hour while women were paid $20.04 an hour.

“When starting the research we could see it going either way: Women might earn a bit less because they would want to work at specific, and potentially less lucrative, times that fit their other obligations better,” says John A. List, the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and co-author of a working paper on the research. “Alternatively, women tend to work fewer hours so they might have a chance to cherry pick and focus their hours during the most lucrative times.”

In the end, the researchers found other factors at work in determining pay, such as the value of on-the-job learning and driving speeds. They included:

∙ Male drivers work more—17.98 hours a week compared to 12.82 a week for women. The researchers said this, in turn, gave them an edge in learning how to choose potential passengers based on how far the driver has to travel to pick them up, the distance to the intended destination and other factors that can influence pay. A fully experienced driver, they said, earns about $3 more an hour than a driver with 500 or fewer trips.


∙ Men were more likely to drive in areas and during times in which pay is higher. List says he and the other researchers had “expected women would avoid certain times of the day because they would not want to confront drunk riders or the like.”

∙ Men drive 2.2 percent faster than women working for Uber, thereby increasing the number of trips they can fit into the hours they work.

List, who it should be noted works as a consultant to Uber, points out that the firm might want to tread carefully in responding to the factors behind the wage gap, given it could be counterproductive. He notes that the current system rewards for experience, which is “good for everyone.” And assuming they do so safely, he adds, “both riders and drivers would prefer to arrive at the destination sooner.”

List worked on the study with Professor Paul Oyer and Assistant Professor Rebecca Diamond of Stanford University, as well as Uber Director of Policy Jonathan Hall and Uber data scientist Cody Cook.

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]

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