Uber vs. Taxi: A Driver's Eye View with Joshua Angrist and Jonathan Hall
Press Coverage: VoxEU US News
Abstract: 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.
Monopsony and the Gender Wage Gap: Experimental Evidence from the Gig Economy with Emily Oehlsen
Tax Refund Expectations and Financial Behavior with Scott Nelson and Daniel Waldinger
Abstract: Many economic models predict that consumption decisions today depend on beliefs about risky future income. We quantify one contributor to income uncertainty and study its effects: uncertainty about annual tax refunds. In a low-income sample for whom tax refunds can be a substantial portion of income, we collect novel survey evidence on tax filers’ expectations of and uncertainty about their tax refunds; we then link these data with administrative tax data, a panel of credit reports, and survey- based consumption measures. We find that while many households have correct mean expectations about their refunds, there is substantial, and accurately reported, subjective uncertainty. Households borrow moderate amounts out of expected tax refunds: for each dollar of expected refund, roughly 15 cents in revolving debt is repaid after refund receipt. This borrowing and repayment is less pronounced for more uncertain households, consistent with precautionary behavior. The unexpected component of tax refunds is not used to pay down debt, but rather induces higher debt levels. Credit report and survey evidence both suggest that these higher debt levels are driven by newly financed durable purchases such as vehicles, illustrating how unexpected income can induce propensities to consume above 1 by relaxing down-payment collateral constraints.
Outside Options, Bargaining, and Wages (Job Market Paper) with Nikolaj Harmon and Daniel Le Maire
Outside Options in the Labor Market with Oren Danieli