If you live in a major American city, earn a sizeable income, and are under the age of 45, Uber probably feels as ubiquitous as Starbucks at this point. But for a large portion of the population, a luxury like an app that brings a driver to your door with the swipe of finger isn't even in their vocabulary.
Eighty-four percent of Americans have never used any ride-hailing app—be it Uber, Lyft, or anything else—while 33 percent said they've never even heard of these apps, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 4,787 Americans published Thursday. It's not that a vast majority of Americans are just woefully out of touch, but that, for a number of factors from cost to age to location, modern conveniences like this are inaccessible.
It shouldn't be shocking that Uber is unaffordable for some people. Even those who use these apps tend to treat it as an occasionally luxury rather than a daily necessity:
- The survey found only 3 percent of respondents said they use ride-hailing apps daily or weekly.
- Twenty-six percent of Americans earning more than $75,000 in annual household income had used rideshare apps, making them more than twice as likely as individuals with an income of less than $30,000.
- Only 10 percent of those earning under $30,000 had used an app like Uber, and nearly half of these respondents had not heard of the apps at all.
Rideshare users also tend to be more likely to be college educated (29 percent of graduates had used the apps, compared to 6 percent of those who have not gone to college), young (18- to 29-year-olds are seven times more likely to have use these apps as are those over 65), and live near a big city (only 3 percent of those who live in rural areas had used the apps). These are more common sense findings: new technology is usually adopted by younger generations first, and Uber isn't available in a lot of rural areas.
Still, the survey—which also looked at the usage of other types of disruptive technologies like AirBnB and Seamless—paints a striking portrait of the average Uber user: a college-educated, affluent, young, urban individual.
It's a reminder that, for all the democratic rhetoric of these new forms of commerce as a way of mobilizing and liberating the masses, the fact remains that the sharing economy isn't for everyone. In fact, it's for a very small, elite group of people. And they're probably rich.