New study shows booking an Airbnb is harder if you have a "black-sounding" name
December 15, 2015 at 6:00 am
Hailing a cab is something that, unfortunately, is understood to be harder for black people than people of other races. There are endless accounts of being overlooked on the side of a street because of skin complexion, but a new study by Harvard professors shows a different kind of discrimination when it comes to rental giant Airbnb.
Renters looking to book a place with the company saw different results depending on the races they were assumed to be by their names. Those with “white-sounding” names had a 50 percent bookingsuccess rate, while those with “African-American-sounding” names only had a 42 percent success rate.
These results didn’t change when price, number of people or the race of the host changed — across the board, those with “black-sounding” names struggled more to book a place.
The professors used more than 6,000 fake, photo-less profiles in five different cities in their research. Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Airbnbs all had similar results.
The researchers argue that Airbnb’s transparent way of providing information (such as name, etc.) in the process of picking someone to rent to lets discrimination sneak through.
Unlike other sites that allow for anonymous profiles, Airbnb provides for a clearer understanding of its customers’ identity. A spokesperson for the company said in a quote to Business Insider that “We are committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world.” Although the transparency is something they’re proud of, the spokesperson also said “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.”
Have you had a similar experience? Share your story in the comments below.