Airbnb hit by ‘racial discrimination’ report

14/12/2015

Users with African-American names have more issues booking Airbnb rentals, according to a new paper out from three Harvard Business School researchers.

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While the platform does not require a personal photo to rent a property, it does require that users provide their real names.

Researchers at the Harvard Business School found that people with names that sounded African-American had a harder time booking a place to stay on Airbnb.

The authors conducted a field experiment that examined 6,400 listings on Airbnb in five cities, concluding that "requests from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16% less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively White names."

“In a field experiment on Airbnb, 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 researchers wrote.

The team made requests at 6,400 rentals on Airbnb in Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The requests used identical details except for names.

“[Our] result contributes to a small but growing body of literature suggesting that discrimination persists — and we argue may even be exacerbated — in online platforms,” the researchers stated.

The researchers noted that the discrimination was consistent across all property owners on the platform.

Speaking to The Huffington Post, an AirBnB spokesperson said: "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."

Read the full report here

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