More Than Money: Correlation Among Worker Demographics, Motivations, and Participation in Online Labor Market

Innovation and Economic Growth, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Wei-Chu Chen, Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri


The 13th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), Munich, Germany, May 2019


Demographic factors such as age, gender, education and income sources explain participation in online labor markets such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Men and women feel equal pressure to earn money, but schedule work differently.

Policy Relevance

Online labor platform operators should recognize that different tasks reach workers with very different characteristics.

Main Points

  • Factors that may influence the type of online work that people do and how they acquire tasks include gender, education, scheduling constraints, and location.
  • Data collected from 1,700 workers on four different online labor platforms (Amazon's Mechanical Turk, UHRS, LeadGenius, and Amara) shows that many on-demand workers identify the need to earn money as the main reason they work.
    • Mechanical Turk workers are most likely to cite the need for income as their main reason for working.
    • Older or less educated workers are most likely to do on-demand work mainly for pay.
  • The likelihood that a worker will be motivated mainly by the need to earn money does not vary by gender; men and women feel comparable pressure to earn money.
  • Younger workers are more likely to be motivated by the desire to improve themselves, that is, to learn new skills or gain experience; highly educated workers are most likely to be motivated by the desire to improve themselves, or by the desire for independence.
  • Workers who are based in India are less likely do on-demand work mainly for money, compared to workers in the United States; Indians with access to computers and the Internet are likely to have more financial security than many Indians to begin with.
  • Female online on-demand workers tend to schedule work during the week day, but male workers tend to schedule work during the night and on weekends; online on-demand workers based in India often work during their nighttime, acquiring tasks offered by Western companies during their daytime.
  • Patterns in online on-demand labor influence who is likely to do the work, and may produce biased content.
  • The assumption that most workers are motivated by the need for money does not always explain participation in the online labor force; the study suggests that the payment of wages can be supplemented by other incentives that motivate workers.

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