Thumbtack released a new report today, Beyond the Gig Economy, that outlines the state of various online marketplaces for both skilled and “gig” work, and identifies how digital technologies are helping to rebuild the American middle class.
Digital platforms — such as Etsy, Thumbtack, and Uber — that connect people to work opportunities have spread throughout the United States, but the rate of adoption differs widely by city and platform. Our report includes an estimate of the rate of adoption of so-called “gig economy” platforms. This map shows the top 20 cities for digital marketplaces with more than one million residents.
We developed this estimate using Twitter geolocated data as a proxy for adoption rates in different markets, based on the theory that platforms that have more Twitter followers in a given area will also have more users in that area. We validated this approach by comparing Thumbtack’s Twitter follower locations to our internal data, and expanded this methodology to ten of the biggest digital marketplaces, including Uber, TaskRabbit, Upwork, and Thumbtack.
Unsurprisingly, San Francisco, the current epicenter of the tech scene, takes first place, with more estimated per capita adoption of digital marketplaces than any other city. While second place goes to the lesser-known Palm Bay, Florida metropolitan area, it houses its very own tech hub: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The other major cities appearing on our top 20 list, like Chicago and Boston, have bustling tech scenes in their own right and a greater per-capita adoption of digital platforms.
The other winners in our analysis were college towns, such as Ann Arbor, Champaign, and Charlottesville. It’s likely that many of the students in these cities make one of their first forays into their workforce through a digital marketplace. For example, Stephen Bott, a graduate student in percussion performance at the University of Colorado Boulder, uses Thumbtack to earn a living by teaching drum lessons. At the very least, the presence of a major research university seems to contribute to higher rates of digital marketplace adoption: almost all of the 20 cities making the cut contain at least one such institution.
Using the same data from Twitter, we find that adoption of what we call “commoditized platforms” – platforms that offer a service where the consumer is indifferent between different service providers – is primarily concentrated in large urban areas, while what we call “marketplaces” – which provide the consumer with much more choice and discretion in who they hire – have been adopted at a much more diffuse rate across the country.
One significant difference between commoditized platforms versus marketplaces is that while marketplaces rely on skilled workers who are active in their professions offline, commoditized platforms are re-creating new ways of doing things that wouldn’t be possible without the platform. As a result, while marketplaces can launch everywhere at once, commoditized platforms have to build a labor force city-by-city, and thus are slow to rollout to the whole country.
You can read more about this data in context in the full report, “Beyond the Gig Economy: How New Technologies Are Reshaping the Future of Work.”
A complete list of cities ranked by their adoption of digital platforms, subdivided into two categories according to their population size, is provided in the table below.
|Top Large (1m+ population) cities||Top mid-sized cities (b/w 100k and 1m population)|
|San Francisco, CA||Palm Bay, FL|
|Chicago, IL||Raleigh, NC|
|Nashville, TN||Madison, WI|
|Boston, MA||Ann Arbor, MI|
|Washington, DC||Napa, CA|
|Seattle, WA||Bloomington, IN|
|Los Angeles, CA||Athens, GA|
|Denver, CO||Durham, NC|
|San Jose, CA||Champaign, IL|
|San Diego, CA||Charlottesville, VA|
|Las Vegas, NV||Charleston, SC|
|Portland, OR||State College, PA|
|New York, NY||Columbia, MO|
|Charlotte, NC||Tallahassee, FL|
|Pittsburgh, PA||Salt Lake City, UT|
|Philadelphia, PA||Lexington, KY|
|Indianapolis, IN||Gainesville, FL|
|Miami, FL||Santa Barbara, CA|
|Columbus, OH||Fort Collins, CO|
|Milwaukee, WI||Omaha, NE|
|Houston, TX||Burlington, VT|
|Sacramento, CA||Fargo, ND|
|New Orleans, LA||Wilmington, NC|
|Baltimore, MD||Des Moines, IA|
|Tampa, FL||Lincoln, NE|
|Cleveland, OH||San Luis Obispo, CA|
|Phoenix, AZ||College Station, TX|
|Richmond, VA||Lansing, MI|
|Minneapolis, MN||Syracuse, NY|
|Memphis, TN||Knoxville, TN|
|Buffalo, NY||Colorado Springs, CO|
|Providence, RI||Reno, NV|
|Dallas, TX||Eugene, OR|
|Detroit, MI||Tucson, AZ|
|Riverside, CA||Albuquerque, NM|
|Virginia Beach, VA||Columbia, SC|
|Hartford, CT||Birmingham, AL|
|Austin, TX||Tulsa, OK|
|Oklahoma City, OK||Santa Rosa, CA|
|Kansas City, MO||Santa Cruz, CA|
|Atlanta, GA||Myrtle Beach, SC|
|Orlando, FL||Asheville, NC|
|Jacksonville, FL||Rochester, NY|
|Cincinnati, OH||Fayetteville, AR|
|St. Louis, MO||Bridgeport, CT|
|San Antonio, TX||Naples, FL|
|Boise City, ID|
|North Port, FL|
|New Haven, CT|
|Baton Rouge, LA|
|Fort Wayne, IN|
|Little Rock, AR|
|Corpus Christi, TX|
|El Paso, TX|