Measuring Digital Intermediation Services: Experimental Estimates of Gross Output for Rideshare, Travel Services, and Food/Grocery Delivery Service Platforms (PDF)

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) produces economic statistics through its system of satellite accounts that highlight specialized areas of the economy that are not directly apparent in BEA’s official economic statistics published under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), such as outdoor recreation and arts and culture. BEA recently developed a Digital Economy Satellite Account (DESA) to better understand this area of the economy as it involves production that spans multiple NAICS industries, ranging from computer manufacturing to internet-based retail trade (e-commerce) to software production. Currently, BEA’s digital economy statistics do not fully capture production of digital intermediary services earned from operating a digital platform that facilitates the direct interaction between multiple buyers and multiple sellers for a fee (such as rideshare), resulting in an incomplete picture of the digital economy. In this paper, we discuss options for measuring digital intermediary services across selected industries of interest to other international statistical agencies as well as BEA: rideshare, travel services, and food/grocery delivery services. We also provide experimental estimates of gross output for these services that cover 2018–2021 using two approaches. We find that digital intermediation services for rideshare, travel services, and food/grocery delivery services represented at least $31 billion in 2021 gross output, or close to 1 percent of the overall value of the digital economy based on the latest DESA statistics.

Tina Highfill and Brian Quistorff

JEL Code(s) E01 O4 Published