Insurance in the Gig Economy: Impacts of the COVID Shock and Take-Up of New Unemployment Benefits among NYC’s Taxi and Rideshare Drivers

Awarded Scholars:
Dmitri Koustas , University of Chicago
James Parrott, The New School
Project Date:
Dec 2020
Award Amount:
$134,250

The COVID-19 pandemic has called attention to the work of taxi drivers and ride-hailing drivers, who lack the benefits, social insurance, and other protections of formal employment. The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to provide federal benefits to self-employed workers who would not otherwise have been eligible for state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Currently, little is known about how gig workers have fared during the pandemic and the adequacy of the policy response. Economists Dmitri Koustas and James Parrott, in consultation with labor economist Michael Reich (University of California, Berkeley), will survey medallion taxi and app-based drivers (e.g., Uber, Lyft, and Via) in New York City and ask questions about the direct impact of the crisis, take-up of new benefits and other safety net programs, adaptation strategies, such as job switching and diversification, health outcomes, and expectations about the future. The investigators have a data-sharing agreement with the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to access administrative data on millions of app-dispatched trips, including driver pay and passenger fares. They plan to match these administrative data (which cover rideshare trips) to individual driver surveys to address these questions: First, how have gig workers been impacted by the COVID crisis? What has been the average loss to weekly income? How many have stopped driving? How do these impacts differ among casual, part-time and full-time drivers and workers of different demographic groups? Second, to what extent has the policy response addressed the gaps in the safety net for these workers, and what gaps remain?

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