According to a recent piece by BBC Business News, millennials (North American young people who came of age after the financial crisis of 2008) are sharing more than any previous generation. With bike rentals and sites like RelayRides and Neighborrow gaining traction with users and investors, the American “sharing economy” is currently worth an estimated $3-4 billion USD.
“The sharing economy is really driven by younger people…they’re the ones who have felt the brunt of the economic recession. They’re also very technologically savvy, and that means they’re able to use the smartphone apps that enable the sharing economy,” says Nicolas Colas, Chief Market Strategist for Convergex.
For this group, experiences may be more important and more attainable than material things. “We don’t have [that] kind of money and we don’t think it’s a necessity,” says Sarah Engel, a 23 year-old editorial assistant at Self Magazine, “It’s not like the [traditional] American dream to own a house, to own a car. We’re happy if we can pay our cellphone bills.”
For many cash-strapped millennials, taking advantage of the sharing economy is an obvious and egalitarian solution to their economic woes, allowing them less commitment and more financial freedom with limited incomes. In addition to helping themselves, participants in the shared economy help their peers by contributing their apartments, cars, services and a number of things in exchange for what they need. This seems a direct contrast with the common notion that Americans are highly individualistic and at times, a little self-serving but group-oriented experiences are quite fitting for a generation that is actually more pro-social and community-minded compared with previous ones.
The rise of the shared economy offers important insights into American culture because many Americans pride themselves on being positive, adaptable, and finding new solutions to difficult problems. The creative values that shape American culture are continuously supporting more group endeavors and according to the BBC, the sharing economy of the US alone may quadruple within a few years.
Has your life been affected or improved by the shared economy? Tell us how in the comments section below.