The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:34 pm

Uber claims big driver pay

Emily Badger Washington Post

The rapidly growing technology company Uber released internal data arguing that drivers who use the app to give rides-for-hire in their personal cars are making more money as chauffeurs than professional taxi drivers do – as much as $17 an hour in Washington and Los Angeles, $23 in San Francisco and $30 in New York.

Those numbers, released last week as part of the most extensive peek yet into its business model, have only inflamed debate about what companies such as Uber mean for the economy and whether the kind of work they offer is sustainable for the tens of thousands of people who have signed up.

Uber and its boosters say those earnings – and the breakneck pace at which drivers are joining its ranks – offer proof that the company is creating new kinds of opportunity for workers who want neither a 9-to-5 job nor a boss.

But some of its drivers and the taxi industry counter that Uber’s earnings data leave out a critical piece of the equation: the steep costs people must pay to operate their own cars as modern-day taxis.

Uber released the new data in a report co-authored by Princeton economist Alan Krueger, former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. The analysis, which includes a survey of 601 drivers, suggests that Uber’s drivers look notably different from your typical cabbie: Nearly half of the Uber drivers surveyed had at least a college degree, compared with 19 percent for taxi drivers and chauffeurs as reflected in government occupational data.

The analysis also reveals for the first time the size of Uber’s driver pool in the U.S. and the rate at which it’s rapidly expanding.

In December, 162,037 "active drivers" completed at least four or more trips for the service. The number of new drivers signing up has doubled every six months for the past two years.

"The more I looked into it, the more I thought this rapid growth is really not a result of a weak job market, but the result of a new opportunity," says Krueger, who was contracted by Uber to conduct the study.

Uber has grown into a tech giant valued by investors at more than $40 billion.

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