The Internet’s Effects on Economic Opportunities in Rural Areas: the Case of Online Labour Markets

This project tracks where digitally transacted work takes place, and compares this data to city- and state-level labour market statistics in order to test whether geographical working patterns differ between online and traditional labour markets.

Urbanization is one of the megatrends of the 21st century. People flock to urban centres thanks to the availability of jobs and other opportunities. The main driver of this trend is that short distances allow ideas and knowledge to move easily from one person and workplace to another. However, the geographic concentration of work is not without its problems: it leads to congestion in cities and deprivation in rural areas. The Internet has long been predicted to change this, by allowing information to flow freely across distances. Yet actual consequences have been mixed: while telecommuting and virtual teamwork have increased dramatically, getting hired in the first place has remained much easier in cities than rural areas.

The project will study the sub-national effects of online labour markets. Based on data collected from major online labour market platforms we are going to track where digitally transacted work is taking place, and compare this data to city- and state-level labour market statistics. This allows us to see whether geographical working patterns differ between online and traditional labour markets.

Additionally, it will address the question of whether the rural-urban wealth gap can be narrowed by online labour markets. In contrast to traditional labour markets which bring people to jobs, these emerging markets bring jobs remotely to people and could be a way to bring economic opportunities to rural areas.