There's A Gender Pay Gap For Uber Drivers, But It's Complicated

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Is your female Uber driver earning as much as a male Uber driver? Probably not. But the reasoning isn't as simple as you might think.
Professors from Stanford University and the University of Chicago joined with economists at Uber to study the earnings of over one million of the app's drivers over roughly two years. The results of their study, published online yesterday, showed that there is about a 7% earnings gap, with male drivers coming out on top. However, this gender pay gap is different from other industries.
First off, pay is completely standardized: Every Uber driver earns a base fare as well as a per-mile and per-minute rate which can vary by city. Additional money comes through incentives, which have included a bonus for completing a certain number of rides in a week, and surge pricing for rides given in a specific area and timeframe — but those incentives are not tied to gender.
Second, the algorithm that assigns rides to drivers is gender-blind.
Yet when the researchers broke earnings down by the hour and week, they found significant disparities: Men earned about $1 more per hour and about 50% per week than women. The researchers concluded that these differences can be attributed to three factors: a driver's location, speed, and experience.
Men tend to drive in areas with lower wait times and higher surge pricing. They also drive faster, meaning they finish rides more quickly, and the faster you complete one ride, the sooner you can start another.
But it's the experience piece that's especially interesting. Men tended to drive more hours every week and, in doing so, picked up key skills — such as knowing when to accept and cancel rides — faster than female drivers. For example, when drivers are first assigned a dispatch in the app, they're told a rider's location and how long it will take them to get there. From there, they can accept or reject a ride.
"If a driver has reason to think that, by rejecting a ride, he or she will be offered a closer dispatch shortly, that driver may be able to increase expected earnings by not accepting the first dispatch," the study says.
Uber says that it may use the study's findings to offer tools that will help drivers master those skills more quickly, evening the playing field for those who choose not to drive as often.

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