Today I presented our work on using Amazon's Mechanical Turk service as a user testing method to PARC's Computing Science Lab (CSL). Several of the researchers in the audience asked "what does the demographic of Mechanical Turk users look like, and whether it is a reasonable sample of the real demographic" that one might want for user testing of HCI systems. I thought that was a great question.
Luckily, our very own intern Brynn Evans recently found a great blog post about the demographics of Mechanical Turk. For example, some have surmised that since MT pays so little, perhaps many of the turkers are from third world countries with lower minimum wages. This turned out not to be the case. About 82% of the users are from either the US, Canada, or UK.
What about income distributions? Perhaps people with lower wages or salaries are more willing to participate. Well, the self-reported income distribution looks remarkably like the income distribution of general online users.
As one might have suspected, the answer is that turkers participate not just for money, but for fun and for a sense of game. Bringing mechanical turk really in line with ESP games.
For more details, see: A Computer Scientist in a Business School: Mechanical Turk: The Demographics