MTurk and Market Economics

This might be a bit of a rant. It is about excuses we use for paying substandard wages on MTurk.

The song and dance seems to be that academics pay the ‘market rate’ for MTurk work. But what is the market? If it is Amazon–well, they recommend somewhere in the $6/hour range (not minimum wage). Other academics, like the one I wrote about yesterday, said that the market is what other people on MTurk are paying. That is an excuse to pay $3=5 hours.

But. If  we (as in we academics) are the market, then we can IMPROVE the market and not just reinforce existing poor payment practices. I don’t buy that paying someone more will result in poorer work–there’s just nothing in the literature to back that up. I also think paying more will bring MORE people into MTurk and begin to address the ‘non-naive’ concern.

I think it is also important to recognize that a Turker isn’t making money from the minute he or she logs on til he or she logs off. It takes time to find HITs, to do qualification tests, to get through screeners, and all those are done for free. Then you add in the wacky way some people set up surveys and a Worker has to wait for a screen to load and that takes time too. So all these things need to be considered when thinking about wages.

I was thinking the other night that Amazon should pay Workers a nominal fee from when they log in to when they log off–not a lot but maybe .50 per hour—to cover the unpaid work. There would have to be ways to make sure people actually WERE working and not gaming the system, but that’s one way to start to improve the worker experience. Baby steps.

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