News & Opinion | October 29, 2019 1:57 pm

As Uber Drivers Get Older, the American Economy Suffers

"Nontraditional employment" is up amongst the senior demographic

Old Uber Drivers Bad for Economy

Back in 2015, right around when ride-sharing apps hit the mainstream, the percentage of Uber drivers over the age of 50 hovered around 25%. At the time, driving Uber or Lyft was more commonly a side-hustle or temporary job of young people. But these days, as the New York Times explored in a recent article, more aging Americans are becoming drivers, and joining the nation’s growing “nontraditional” workforce instead of entering retirement.

According to a recent study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, 20 percent of 50-62-year-olds are now working in nontraditional jobs; that describes forms of employment without health insurance or retirement benefits, which are often low-paid and not defined by a typical 9-5 schedule. The ride-sharing movement is a leading catalyst behind the trend.

Older workers who are in between jobs are increasingly less likely to hold out for full-time employment. Driving around town and picking people up offers an attractive, if ultimately unfulfilling alternative to sitting at a computer refreshing LinkedIn all day. It’s harder than ever for men and women over 50 to get a job in this country, even those will college degrees (ageism plays a role: over two-thirds of Americans between the ages 45 and 75 have reported age-related discrimination) so you can’t exactly fault people for settling.

But it’s hurting the economy, and economists are worried. According to the National Council on Aging, over 25 million Americans 60 or older are economically insecure. And people who take on nontraditional jobs as a stopgap can often find that they become permanent. Retirement incomes suffer as a result, and on average are 26 percent lower. It obviously behooves these workers to put off claiming Social Security, but that gets tougher and tougher, as funds become more unreliable and more medical attention is required to get through the year. The solution to this issue isn’t clear, but more affordable health care would be a step in the right direction.

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