Study finds Airbnb hosts practice racial discrimination

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A new study by Harvard Business School reveals that the "lack of anonymity" on Airbnb leads to racial discrimination, according to Bloomberg. The research suggests renters with names that sound Black have a harder time booking through Airbnb than renters with names that sound white. In the study, researchers created 6,400 fake Airbnb profiles and gave each user a stereotypically white or black name, based on data from 1970s Massachusetts birth certificates. The accounts did not have identifying pictures. The study focused on five cities: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. and found that "white" guests got "yes" responses 50 percent of the time while "Black" guests received "yes" responses only 42 percent of the time.

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In 2014, the same researchers found racial discrimination against Airbnb hosts, showing that nonblack renters could charge 12 percent more, on average, than Black renters.

"Life is tough if you're a black guest on Airbnb," Ben Edelman one of the study's authors told Bloomberg. "Particularly when you compare it to the baseline of the way things used to be. If you're a black guest, you just make a reservation at the Marriott."

The study suggests that Airbnb conceal guest names and expand "instant book," a process where hosts accept guests without screening. You can read the full study here.

Airbnb gave this statement to Fast Company:
We are committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world. We recognize that bias and discrimination are significant challenges, and we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community. We are in touch with the authors of this study and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with them.
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Study finds Airbnb hosts practice racial discrimination
(photo credit: cogdogblog/Flickr)
TEUGE, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 5: Guests watch television at Dutch entrepreneur Ben Thijssen's converted airplane hotel on August 5, 2009 in Teuge, Netherlands. The five star hotel is a converted 1960s four-engine 131-foot Ilyushin 18 airplane and features a bar, kitchen, sauna, whirlpool. The plane was previously owned by former East German leader Erich Honecker (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
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