When It Comes to Surge Pricing, Who Benefits — You or Uber?

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Companies like Uber and TaskRabbit have been thriving in the so-called "gig economy." But the gig may soon be up.
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Click on the 'Listen' button above to hear this interview.

When you open up your Uber app and want to get a car but see surge pricing, how likely are you to take the ride anyway and pay more? Well, Uber knows what you are likely to do — and how much you’ll be willing to pay.

In a new paper out this week, a team of economists looked at a cache of data from Uber. The ride-sharing company handed over 54 million user sessions from four cities — Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York — from the first half of 2015. Looking at the data, the economists can draw a real-life demand curve of just how many people are requesting cars, at what price points, and when users decide the price has gone too high.

Steve Levitt of Freakonomics and the University of Chicago was a co-author of the paper. He passed along the findings to Stephen Dubner, host of Freakonomics Radio. Dubner says that while perception might make consumers think they are losing out from surge pricing, data shows they are actually the big winners.

Check out the full Freakonomics episode on Uber here, and click on the 'Listen' button above to hear our full conversation with Stephen Dubner.