The influencer pay gap: Platform labor meets racial capitalism

Angèle Christin, Yingdan Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Existing research emphasizes the precarity of workers engaged in the exchange of goods and services through digital platforms. Yet few studies have systematically examined how racial discrimination shapes the opportunities of platform workers. Here, we focus on influencers, or people who monetize content on social media platforms. Drawing on a mixed-method analysis of 1,082 posts crowdsourced by the @InfluencerPayGap Instagram account, we document three findings. First, while most influencers in our sample received monetary payment for sponsored campaigns, rates are significantly lower than expected based on industry estimates. Second, social media metrics are racialized to justify paying influencers of color less than white influencers. Third, influencers of color are less likely than white influencers to receive monetary compensation or succeed in their negotiations with brands. Contrary to the rhetoric of fairness and democratization promoted by digital platforms, these dynamics reproduce racial domination and undermine collective action among social media influencers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Influencers
  • Instagram
  • compensation
  • discrimination
  • platform labor
  • racial capitalism
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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