Uber and Lyft Drivers Earn Over $23 an Hour in Seattle

(p. B3) A study by researchers at Cornell University found that the typical driver in Seattle made over $23 per hour after expenses during one week last fall. Previous studies for other areas had put net earnings well below $20 per hour. Another new study put the figure at less than half that.

. . .

While other researchers have assumed that drivers are working any time their app is turned on — even if they’re not on their way to pick up a customer or don’t have a passenger in the car — the Cornell study counts such time as work only if it directly precedes a ride. If a driver turns on the ride-share app but is not dispatched on a ride before shutting it off, the authors do not count the time as work.

According to the Cornell authors, this assumption adds about $2.50 per hour to the typical driver’s earnings.

. . .

The Cornell authors also assume that many of the costs of owning a vehicle, such as the value a car loses as it ages or financing costs, should not be considered work expenses because car owners would typically pay these costs even if they didn’t drive for Uber or Lyft.

The only costs the authors factor into their preferred calculation are so-called marginal costs — like gas and maintenance costs that accrue because of the extra miles a worker drives while on the job. This assumption results in costs that are up to about $5.50 an hour lower for full-time drivers, and a net wage that is several dollars per hour higher, than under a more conventional calculation.

For the full story, see:

Noam Scheiber. “Critics Doubt Study on Uber and Lyft Pay.” The New York Times (Monday, July 13, 2020): B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated July 14 [sic], 2020, and has the title “When Scholars Collaborate With Tech Companies, How Reliable Are the Findings?”)

The Cornell study mentioned above is:

Hyman, Louis, Erica L. Groshen, Adam Seth Litwin, Martin T. Wells, Kwelina P. Thompson, and K. Chernyshov. “Platform Driving in Seattle.” Research Studies and Reports, ILR School Cornell University, Institute for Workplace Studies. Ithaca, NY, July 6, 2020.

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