As far as new ways of business coming out of Silicon Valley go, you could say it's a story of two Americas. The majority of U.S. adults have used a sharing or on-demand platform, but a lot of people are wholly unfamiliar with vocabulary pertaining to these newer trends, according to the Pew Research Center's first-ever survey of the sharing and on-demand economy.

  • 61 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with the term crowdfunding.
  • 73 percent didn't know the phrase "sharing economy."
  • 89 percent didn't know the phrase "gig economy."
  • Roughly a third of respondents had not heard of Uber or Lyft.
  • Roughly half of respondents had never heard of home-sharing.

And while 72 percent reported using at least one of the 11 on-demand or sharing platforms Pew asked about, only seven percent had used six or more of these services. Those most likely to use the services tended to be college-educated and wealthy, and many of them were young adults.

Aaron Smith, associate director at Pew Research Center and author of the study, said in a statement that despite these new economic trends spurring ongoing debate, impact on consumers is uneven.

"Some Americans have deeply integrated these platforms into their day-to-day lives--but a larger number exist on the fringes of the sharing and on-demand economy," he said.

The results speak to a stark digital divide, in which members of more affluent groups have dramatically greater access to new technologies and modes of doing things than lower-income groups.

While it would seem that with time, groups that remain unfamiliar or that still lack access to these services would be brought into the fold, another recent study raises the question of whether this division might be static in at least some cases.

EMarketer projects slowed growth for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, in response to government regulations, saturation of the business travel market, and continued competition from taxis.

Zipcar Co-Founder Robin Chase on the Future of the Sharing Economy
Published on: May 19, 2016