NEW YORK, NY – The sharing economy has disrupted traditional industries from transportation to hospitality. Its rise, aided by the emergence of digital and mobile technologies, was so rapid that in 2015, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted it would grow from $15 billion in global revenue to $335 billion by 2025. When the pandemic struck, experts predicted COVID-19 fears would devastate the sharing economy. But, on the contrary, new research from Columbia Business School shows that fear of contagion and contamination from COVID-19 did not disrupt or negatively impact consumers' willingness to share in the United States.  The global study, “Cross-Cultural Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Willingness to Share Possessions,” shows that the degree to which consumers were willing to share their possessions with others during the pandemic depended on which country they lived in. The study finds that American consumers increased their openness to peer-to-peer sharing during the pandemic versus before it. In contrast, Indian consumers limited their openness to sharing compared to before the pandemic, possibly out of greater concern about COVID-19 transmission. Columbia Business School Professor Gita Johar and her co-researcher, doctoral candidate Maayan Malter found that American consumers significantly increased their overall willingness to share during the pandemic – by 1.08 points on a seven-point Likert scale. In contrast, Singaporean consumers' willingness to share was more modest, with only a 0.18-point increase which is nonsignificant, with Indian consumers' willingness to share falling significantly by 0.34 points. Before the arrival of COVID-19, Indian and Singaporean consumers’ willingness to share was greater than that of consumers in the United States. “The results highlight that the pandemic reinforced the importance of interpersonal relationships in American consumers' lives,” said Gita Johar, the Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. “Marketing professionals must understand this as they craft their strategies.” Culture is one of the primary determinants of consumer openness to sharing both before and during the pandemic. Individuals in cultures with higher interdependence (a tendency to include close others within one’s self concept), such as India and Singapore, were more willing to share their possessions with others but had stronger boundaries around whom they would share with. They strongly preferred to share possessions with people similar to them. This result suggests that although interdependence predicts more sharing in general, such sharing may be more limited to those closest to the person sharing. In contrast, individuals in cultures with lower levels of interdependence, such as the US, were less open to sharing overall but were more open to sharing with different types of people. In a two-part study, the researchers analyzed data on peer-to-peer sharing in the United States, Singapore, and India, comparing consumer openness to sharing before and during the pandemic across these three distinct cultures. The first study was conducted pre-pandemic in November 2018, through Qualtrics participant panels totaling 244 participants consisting of 80 consumers from India, 83 consumers from Singapore and 81 consumers from the United States. Participants were asked about their openness to share across four product categories: sports equipment, biking, tools, and housing, establishing a baseline on cultural differences regarding the extent to which consumers were willing to share their possessions with others. The second study was conducted during the pandemic in February 2021, which surveyed 373 participants. Participants answered questions about how the pandemic may have impacted their willingness to share, testing how COVID-19 affected consumers and their openness to share the same set of products. “As sharing-economy companies continue to expand their footprint globally, it is important for marketers to better understand consumer motivations, behavior, and feelings around collaborative consumption,” said Columbia Business School Ph.D. candidate Maayan Malter. Further analysis of the two datasets found that US participants put a greater importance of interpersonal relationships in their lives during the pandemic compared to before. This increase in relationship importance significantly mediated the increase in US openness to share. The researchers noted that each country had varying responses to the pandemic, citing differing case counts, vaccination rates and isolation policies. Singapore was able to enforce strict lockdowns and control the spread of the virus, which led to more overall stability and security in the daily lives of its citizens. The United States and India, with much larger populations, experienced significant infection and hospitalization rates, and high death tolls that had a significant impact on the lives and security of its citizens. In India, there was far greater concern with contagion and contamination than in either Singapore or the United States, which researchers note may explain a decreased willingness to share among Indian participants. Researchers will need further data to test the possible explanation for why sharing decreased in India.        To learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted at Columbia Business School, please visit ###