NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Uber vs. Taxi: A Driver's Eye View

Joshua D. Angrist, Sydnee Caldwell, Jonathan V. Hall

NBER Working Paper No. 23891
Issued in September 2017, Revised in October 2017
NBER Program(s):Industrial Organization Program, Law and Economics Program, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program

Ride-hailing drivers pay a proportion of their fares to the ride-hailing platform operator, a commission-based compensation model used by many internet-mediated service providers. To Uber drivers, this commission is known as the Uber fee. By contrast, traditional taxi drivers in most US cities make a fixed payment independent of their earnings, usually a weekly or daily medallion lease, but keep every fare dollar net of expenses. We assess these compensation models from a driver’s point of view using an experiment that offered random samples of Boston Uber drivers opportunities to lease a virtual taxi medallion that eliminates the Uber fee. Some drivers were offered a negative fee. Drivers’ labor supply response to our offers reveals a large intertemporal substitution elasticity, on the order of 1.2. At the same time, our virtual lease program was under-subscribed: many drivers who would have benefitted from buying an inexpensive lease chose to opt out. We use these results to compute the average compensation required to make drivers indifferent between ride-hailing and a traditional taxi compensation contract. The results suggest that ride-hailing drivers gain considerably from the opportunity to drive without leasing.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23891

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