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The Promise of the Sharing Economy among Disadvantaged Communities

April 18, 2015
By Tawanna R. Dillahunt and Amelia R. Malone

This study examines how the peer-to-peer economy affects economic opportunity for low-income individuals and communities.

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This study, written by University of Michigan School of Information assistant professor Tawanna Dillahunt, uses interviews with low-income individuals participating in peer-to-peer economy services, such as Airbnb or Lyft, to study how the peer-to-peer economy affects economic opportunity for similarly situated individuals and communities.

The peer-to-peer economy, or sharing economy, can promote the flow of capital from high-opportunity and high-income neighborhoods to low-opportunity neighborhoods, but little research has been done by scientists to quantify this flow and any barriers to market entry, Dillahunt writes.

“The digital sharing economy presents opportunities for individuals to find temporary employment, generate extra income, increase reciprocity, enhance social interaction, and access resources not otherwise attainable,” Dillahunt writes. Although the sharing economy is profitable, little is known about its use among the unemployed or those struggling financially. This paper describes the results of a participatory-design based workshop to investigate the perception and feasibility of finding temporary employment and sharing spare resources using sharing-economy applications.”

By sharing physical assets and services, the sharing economy connects consumers and providers voluntarily trading money for services, Dillahunt writes.

“The sharing economy, also referred to as the peer-to-peer economy and the collaborative economy, involves the sharing of physical assets and services among people,” Dillahunt writes. “Websites and applications such as Craigslist, Airbnb, and Lyft are platforms that support a sharing economy in which individuals can both buy and share items or services. Technological systems and platforms, or marketplaces exist to support the exchange of physical assets and services in the sharing economy; those buying and renting from the sharing economy are referred to as consumers, and those individuals that sell or provide these services are known as (micro)entrepreneurs. In this system, consumers and (micro)entrepreneurs alike are referred to as peers. Peers are often connected with social networks and rely on cooperation and trust for successful exchanges.”

Article Tags
Economy