• 06.06.14

The Sharing Economy Isn’t Just For Young, Coastal Urbanites Any More

People everywhere–and of all ages–are interested in not owning as much junk.

The Sharing Economy Isn’t Just For Young, Coastal Urbanites Any More
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

The sharing economy has long been associated with certain types and demographics: young, hipster, urban, middle class. But perhaps the stereotypes need revisiting. A new survey reveals broad support for collaborative consumption across age groups, income, and geography.


Globally, more than two-thirds of people want to share or rent out personal assets for financial gain, according to a Nielsen survey of Internet-users in 60 countries. Similar numbers want to use products and services from other people.

People in Asia-Pacific are most willing to share, with 78% prepared to offer assets and 81% prepared to pay for them. Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa also have high numbers (about 70% would offer assets and pay for them). Europe and North America show the lowest propensity, with about half willing to take items, and about 40% wanting to take them. The global average is 66% and 68%, respectively.

While millennials (25-34) and generation Xers (35-49) are most likely to share, the survey showed some support in younger and older groups. For example, 15% of baby boomers (50-64) in Latin America are likely to share with a community.

“Normally, we think of sharers as young, urban, and hip,” says John Burbank, president of Nielsen Strategic Initiatives. “It’s true that millennials make up half of those in the survey who said they’d be likely to rent things from others in share communities. But another quarter belong to generation X, and almost an eighth are baby boomers. They are as large a part of the story as under-20s.”

People are most willing to share electronics (28%). That compares with lessons (26%), clothing (22%), furniture (17%) and home (15%). That’s somewhat at odds with the sharing economy so far, as more people have rented out their homes than their shirts and pants.

In Europe, women and men were equally likely to share. In Latin America and North America, slightly more men reported willingness to share. In Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa, the differences were stark. More than half of men (52%) from the Middle East would share, against just 19% of women.

Burbank says the survey should be encouraging to sharing economy companies that want to expand their reach. “Airbnb can’t grow simply on the back of young people loaning studio apartments–it’s older people who have houses to loan out.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.