May 18, 2021, Paper: "Workers who join the gig economy face a challenging trade-off. Gig work provides worktime flexibility and a sense of being one’s own boss, but gig workers forgo certain protections that employees enjoy. In this paper, we study the work patterns of a large sample of drivers in the food delivery business to better understand the value of worktime flexibility. Our results indicate that the vast majority of drivers place significant value on flexibility. We then use our estimates to study how flexibility concerns, earnings considerations, and worker welfare influence the regulation of gig work. Our context is Proposition 22, a recent California ballot initiative that protects gig workers’ worktime flexibility and provides an earnings guarantee. We find that counties where drivers stood to earn more from the earnings guarantee were more likely to vote in favor of Proposition 22, although this relationship disappears when factoring in political ideologies. Surprisingly, we also uncover a robust negative association between our estimates of driver surplus and support for Proposition 22. This suggests that voters and economists think about worker welfare differently, particularly in the context of gig work."
Non-HKS Author Website - Felix Oberholzer-Gee