African-Americans less likely to get Airbnb room: study

December 12, 2015

People with African-American sounding names are discriminated against when trying to get a room on Airbnb, a Harvard study says, suggesting many who use the website fail to share its vision of a "trusted community."

The San Francisco home-sharing startup, whose popularity has soared since it was founded in 2008, admitted in a statement that "bias and discrimination are significant challenges."

Researchers at Harvard Business School sent out 6,400 messages in July this year to hosts in five US cities—Washington, Baltimore, St Louis, Los Angeles and Dallas—from invented accounts looking to rent on Airbnb under distinctly black and white names.

"We find that requests from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively white names," the authors said.

"The difference persists whether the host is African-American or white, male or female."

The study concluded: "While information can facilitate transactions, it also facilitates discrimination."

It also noted: "Clearly, the manager of a Holiday Inn cannot examine names of potential guests and reject them based on race. Yet, this is commonplace on Airbnb."

One way around the problem would be to hide guest , the study said.

Airbnb is among the most prominent of "sharing economy" startups, helping property dwellers rent out a room or their entire residence, while stirring concerns in the hotel industry about unfair competition.

In its statement to AFP Saturday, it said: "We are committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world.

"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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Jeffhans1
3 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2015
The same thing applies for job applicants, loan requests and in the courtroom. Racism is not always obvious to everyone but you can't hide hard statistics even when the person making the choice isn't aware that they are being racist. Until our society can fairly judge someone without being able to determine their skin color or religious beliefs, we should figure out how to remove names and other identifiers that enable people to silently commit racism.

I think the same should also apply to being a police officer versus being a civilian. The double standards are literally destroying this country.
RoMiSo
3 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2015
It's perfectly natural that people have prejudices, and it's OK to chose as a private house or apartment owner to leave it in the hand of peoples you decided that you're willing to trust.
In the private sphere you should still be allowed to do not like everybody ...
Public or business worlds are a different issue, where discrimination should be hunted.
And, by the way - Afro-Americans aren't a race ...

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