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Dynamic Pricing in a Labor Market: Surge Pricing and Flexible Work on the Uber Platform

Keith Chen, University of California, Los Angeles and Chief Economist, Uber

In many markets, new technologies allow traditional jobs to be divided into discrete tasks that are widely distributed across workers and dynamically priced given prevailing supply and demand conditions. This “sharing” or “gig” economy represents a more flexible work system, and is most common in two-sided markets in which a firm acts as a platform to connect service providers and consumers. One prominent example of this is the ride-sharing company Uber, which connects riders and driver-partners, and dynamically prices trips using a system known as “surge” pricing. Keith Chen will discuss how new analytics tools enable dynamic pricing systems, the practical problems of designing such systems system, how dynamic pricing coordinates workers who can now earn compensation on a flexible schedule, and more broadly how the “gig” economy is evolving and growing as a form of market organization.

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