Unfortunately, while numbers themselves never lie, the people who work with them can manipulate them to indicate things that they really don’t.
Case in point is the recent study done by MIT for Lyft and Uber drivers — which, on the surface, seemed to indicate that the average wage for a Lyft or Uber driver was a paltry three dollars and thirty seven cents per hour. This hasn’t turned out to be quite the case, but the study did point out that drivers for both companies are feeling victimized as more and more expenses involved in being a so-called contract driver are pushed onto them in ways and by means that most drivers consider to be unfair, if not downright illegal.
The MIT study came out last weekend, with over a thousand drivers for Lyft and Uber responding to the comprehensive survey that looked into specific expenses for driving for Uber and/or Lyft. (One surprising result of the survey was the discovery of a small minority of drivers who managed to drive for BOTH Lyft and Uber, which is against company policy for both organizations!) The study took into account such common vehicle expenses as automotive amortization, fuel, car insurance for both driver and passenger, and average repair and maintenance costs. With all the deductions involved, around thirty percent of the drivers in the mock survey actually showed a loss when driving for Uber or Lyft, with around seventy-five percent making less that their state’s legal minimum wage. When the numbers were averaged it appeared as if ALL drivers were making just around three dollars a spare change per hour. But that wasn’t the real scenario — a large group of drivers, although NOT a majority, actually made much more than that.
The study’s flaws have been thoroughly analyzed and explained by the economic chief at Uber, who says that some deep methodological flaws in study need to be corrected before the conclusions reflect a true state of affairs. And he’s not the only one to say the report is skewed. Dr. Stephen Zoepf this week also agreed that the report did not use proper checks and balances in analyzing statistics. Zoepf is a chief author of the MIT Center For Environmental and Energy Research Policy report, as well as the head director for the Stanford University CAR (Center for Automotive Research.)
When Zoepf used 2 different sets of algorithms to recalculate the same results from the MIT study he discovered that the results were not nearly the same. His first set of calculations showed that the average driver income for either company was pegged solidly at eight dollars and fifty five cents per hour, and that only eight percent of drivers were losing money and that fifty four percent were still making less than their state’s minimum wage.
Zoepf’s second method of calculation showed that median pay for drivers came in at ten dollars an hours, with approximately forty percent making less than their state’s minimum wage, and only four percent losing money.
This goes to prove once again the old adage: “There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics!”