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Published December 2019 | Submitted
Journal Article Open

Prices and subsidies in the sharing economy


The growth of the sharing economy is driven by the emergence of platforms, e.g., Uber and Lyft, that match owners looking to share their resources with customers looking to rent them. The design of such platforms is a complex mixture of economics and engineering, and how to optimally design such platforms is still an open problem. In this paper, we focus on the design of prices and subsidies in sharing platforms. Our results provide insights into the tradeoff between revenue maximizing prices and social welfare maximizing prices. Specifically, we introduce a novel model of sharing platforms and characterize the profit and social welfare maximizing prices in this model. Further, we bound the efficiency loss under profit maximizing prices, showing that there is a strong alignment between profit and efficiency in practical settings. Our results highlight that the revenue of platforms may be limited in practice due to supply shortages; thus platforms have a strong incentive to encourage sharing via subsidies. We provide an analytic characterization of when such subsidies are valuable and show how to optimize the size of the subsidy provided. Finally, we validate our results and insights using data from Didi Chuxing, the largest ridesharing platform in China.

Additional Information

© 2019 Elsevier. Received 8 November 2018, Revised 7 April 2019, Accepted 15 August 2019, Available online 26 August 2019.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023