Juliet Schor, Boston College

Understanding the Sharing Economy
Juliet Schor


Fall 2017
Lecture Time: 
Friday, October 20, 2017 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 

R0220 Ross School of Business

Introduced By: 
Lindsey Cameron


Since its introduction in the late 2000s, there has been considerable debate about the impacts of the “sharing” economy. Observers and researchers have considered issues such as racial discrimination, disruption to existing industries, and the culture of “stranger exchange,” however conditions for and treatment of paid providers has been the most common topic of interest. In this paper, we analyze conditions for platform providers on six platforms (Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Uber, Lyft, Postmates and Favor). On the basis of 102 interviews from 2013-2016, we find that providers have widely varying experiences, earnings and working conditions. A key axis of differentiation is the extent to which they rely on the platform to pay basic expenses versus use it to earn supplemental income. Dependent providers on a number of platforms experience low net earnings, inadequate demand, and less control, making the platforms a precarious way to earn a living. A second axis is that the platforms themselves vary considerably in terms of what providers can earn, conditions of work and their ability to produce satisfied workers.

Recording & Additional Notes

Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Schor is also a member of the MacArthur Foundation Connected Learning Research Network. Schor’s research focuses on consumption, time use, environmental sustainability, and the new economy. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Schor received her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Massachusetts. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics and the Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies. In 2014 Schor received the American Sociological Association’s award for Public Understanding of Sociology.

Schor’s books include The Overworked American, The Overspent American, Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude, and True Wealth. Her scholarly articles have appeared in the Economic Journal, The Review of Economics and Statistics, World Development, Industrial Relations, Ecological Economics, The Journal of Industrial Ecology, The Journal of Consumer Research, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, The Journal of Consumer Culture, and Poetics, among others.

Schor is a former Guggenheim Fellow and was the Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in 2014-15. She is also a former Brookings Institution fellow. She is the recipient of the 2011 Herman Daly Award from the US Society for Ecological Economics. In 2006 she received the Leontief Prize from the Global Development and Economics Institute at Tufts University for expanding the frontiers of economic thought. She has also received the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contributions to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language from the National Council of Teachers of English. She has served as a consultant to the United Nations, at the World Institute for Development Economics Research, and to the United Nations Development Program. In 2012 Schor organized the first Summer Institute in New Economics, a week-long program for PhD students in the social sciences, and repeated the program in 2013.

Schor is a co-founder of the South End Press, the Center for Popular Economics, and the Center for a New American Dream. She is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Better Future Project, an organization working to end fossil fuel use.