But what’s perhaps most striking were pay disparities uncovered by the survey: African American drivers for Lyft and Uber reported making an average $13.96 an hour, compared to $16.08 for all Uber and Lyft drivers. Women earned less than men at $14.26 an hour.
In other words, the new gig economy is looking in some ways like the old one.
“The trend is, honestly, I think, not positive,” said Harry Campbell, who conducted the driver survey for his blog, The Rideshare Guy. “The pay is becoming more akin to a service worker like McDonald’s or like Burger King.”
Unlike the broader economy, however, the survey — which can be found here –found that younger drivers earned more. That finding that could mean that older drivers are less enthusiastic about driving at night and weekends, when fares are at their highest, Campbell said. It could also mean that older drivers encounter more hassles trying to make the technology work.
“The number one complaint I hear from older drivers? There’s no phone call to call at Uber,” Campbell said. “And it could be things as simple as just navigating the app. Someone like me, who’s only 30, grew up with apps and smartphones and really understands how to troubleshoot, how to overcome the smallest of little problems. . .”
Campbell, of Los Angeles, is a former Uber driver who quit his job as an aerospace engineer to blog full-time about rideshare services. In 2013 he launched the Rideshare Guy, which gets more than 400,000 unique visitors a month.
Earlier this month, Campbell sent his survey to nearly 30,000 blog subscribers. He received 1,150 responses, up from 453 drivers last year. Most came from subscribers, with additional responses from social media or the blog itself, he said.
An online study of drivers conducted for Uber by Benenson Strategy Group found higher levels of satisfaction and more diversity. The Uber survey – which drew on 601 interviews in December 2014 and 833 interviews in November 2015 – said more than 80 percent of drivers were satisfied overall, especially with its flexible schedule. Twenty-four percent were African American, and 20 percent were Latino, Uber’s survey found.
Campbell said that, based on his discussions with drivers and the results of the Rideshare Guy survey, the fast-growing fleet of rideshare drivers is made up of older, college-educated white people who are hustling for pocket money in their spare time, often because they’ve been downsized from other jobs or they’re finding retirement tougher than they thought. A wage of $16 an hour doesn’t sound too bad until you start deducting the cost of fuel, car payments, taxes and so on.
“When you look at it, you know, 15 bucks an hour is not a lot of money,” Campbell said. “Yet Uber is still touting that this is sort of this new way of work. But I think the only thing new about it is the flexibility, to some degree. I think that’s the only value proposition to some.”
More than 78 percent of survey respondents identified themselves as white, compared with about 7 percent for African Americans and Latinos. More than 53 percent also said they had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with a national average of 33 percent.
More than half the respondents said that less than half or very little of their income comes from driving for a rideshare firm. Only 201 people, or 17.5 percent, said all or almost all of their income came from working for Uber or the other companies. The survey found, to no one’s surprise, that one of the most valued things about driving for Uber was flexibility.
The Rideshare Guy’s survey found that Lyft drivers gross $17.50 an hour on average and that drivers liked working for Lyft more than Uber: nearly 76 percent expressed satisfaction with Lyft, compared with about 49 percent for Uber. The study also found that Uber drivers prefer taking passengers arranged through a single call over UberPool’s service for multiple fares.
“[F]or me, that wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but it was for some people, seeing that Lyft drivers are a little happier [and that] Lyft drivers make a little more money,” Campbell said. “That’s sort of something I’ve always felt literally from day 1 when I started driving for Lyft and Uber three years ago.”
And yet 75 percent of the respondents drove with Uber primarily, compared with about 20 percent for Lyft.
Campbell said the most surprising finding was the disparity among different groups of drivers.
Although many more women drive for app-based rideshare companies than those who work for traditional taxi and limousine services, women also earn less: $14.26 an hour, versus $16.61, the survey found. Younger drivers between the ages of 18 and 30 also did better than those 61 years and older, earning $17.98 compared with $14.57. That’s true even though there is a higher proportion of older drivers; 54 percent of the surveyed drivers are 51 or over; nearly 78 percent are at least 41 years old. Uber’s survey found 47 percent of its drivers were at least 40.
“Drivers don’t make that much money, I guess would be the best way to sum it up,” Campbell said. “It’s more of a backup plan. They can’t get hired. They have social security but it’s not enough. They have a small pension, but it’s not enough. Their spouse is still working and they need to bring in some kind of income. So it’s sort of like providing an opportunity to them but it also speaks to the larger economic issues.