Nearly a Quarter of Americans Earn Money From Digital Platforms

James Rainey

Nearly one quarter of Americans earned money from the digital platform economy in the last year — giving rides, delivering merchandise, renting out their homes, and performing other tasks, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Some 8% earned money by using the web to find paid jobs, or “gigs,” while 18% have earned money by selling things online and another 1% rented out their homes or apartments on a sharing site. Some have engaged in more than one of those activities so that, all told, 24% made money from one form or another of online commerce, the study found.

The survey of 4,500 adults in the U.S. found that a majority of those making money via online connections have either full (44%) or part-time (24%) jobs. Another 32% do not have other jobs.

Americans expressed a variety of motivations for seeking out the online jobs. Some 42% say they were looking to have fun or to do something to fill their spare time, while 37% said they use the platforms to fill gaps in their other income sources. Nearly one-third said the part-time works allows them to have more control over schedules that also include school, child care, or other obligations.

“More than half of platform workers describe the income they earn as being either essential to meeting their basic needs (29%), or as an important component of their overall budget (27%) — but 42% indicate that while the income they earn is nice to have, they could get by comfortably without it,” the Pew report said.

Whites are less likely to participate in the so-called “gig” economy — with 5% either finding a job or selling online, while 14% of blacks and 11% of Latinos participated via the new platforms.

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