The Sharing Economy Is More than a Buzzword. It's Changing How We Live.

One in five adults have worked in the sharing economy, while two in five have used it, according to new report.

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By Catherine Clifford • Jan 1, 2016 Originally published Jan 1, 2016

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Uber seems to be in every other headline of tech and business news, but just how pervasive is the sharing economy outside of tech blogs and the minds of business journalists?

Very. Companies such as Uber and Airbnb are fundamentally changing the way we live and work in the U.S., according to a new report out this week.

Forty-five million adults in the U.S., or more than one in five people, have worked in the sharing economy, according to the report developed jointly by Burson-Marsteller, a global strategic communications and public relations firm; The Aspen Institute's Future of Work Initiative; and TIME. The survey, consisting of 3,000 online interviews of American adults, was conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland between Nov. 16 and 25.

Twice the number of Americans that have worked in the sharing economy have used services provided by sharing-economy companies. More than 86 million adults in the U.S., or more than two in five people, have used sharing-economy services, according to the report.

The sharing economy, also sometimes called the "on-demand" economy, includes those companies that use technology to identify excess or otherwise underutilized goods or services and matches them with people who are looking for those services. Uber and Airbnb are virtually household names in much of the country, but there are countless other smaller sharing-economy businesses. For example, Postmates is an on-demand delivery service, Taskrabbit is an online marketplace for micro jobs, and car2go is a car-sharing company.

Related: What You Need to Know to Compete With the Surging Sharing Economy

"With nearly a quarter of Americans already working in the On-Demand Economy, and more than a third buying its services, it is clear the sector is playing a major role in the growth and direction of the United States," said Donald A. Baer, the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

Even as the sharing economy is booming, the industry as a whole has some pretty big issues to work out. For example, 72 percent of survey respondents who work in the sharing economy think they should receive more benefits from their employers.

Employee benefits have been a major issue for Uber of late. A lawsuit against Uber claims that drivers for the tech giant are not contract workers, but employees. Contractors are not due benefits, but employees are. If Uber were to have to start providing benefits to all of the drivers on its platform, that would be a game-changing expense that could potentially curtail the explosive growth of the company.

Related: General Motors Partners With Lyft to Develop Network of Self-Driving Cars
Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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