Dimensions of digital inequality in the sharing economy.

Eichhorn, T., Jürss, S., & Hoffmann, C.P. (2022). Dimensions of digital inequality in the sharing economy. Information, Communication & Society, 25(3), 395-412, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2020.1791218

Sharing economy platforms have grown to offer various commercial opportunities to a growing but still limited user base. We conceptualize engagement in the sharing economy as a form of online participation, and apply a digital inequalities perspective to examine the social stratification of commercial sharing. Based on the Internet access model established by Van Dijk, we analyze the effects of social structural antecedents on various access stages. Initial studies indicate that the sharing economy is characterized by second-order consumption, addressing user wants more than needs. Therefore, we draw on Bourdieu to complement Van Dijk’s model through a habitual perspective. Analyzing data collected in a survey of more than 6000 individuals from 12 European countries, we find that while social structural antecedents are critical in explaining initial usage of sharing services, their effect on repeat usage is less evident. Some indicators, such as education and social capital, even negatively relate to usage intensity. In turn, we find that a habitus of innovativeness and community-orientation significantly bolsters initial usage, but materialism, rather than material requirements, characterizes higher levels of engagement in the sharing economy.