Three researchers at Harvard Business School published a study Wednesday documenting "widespread discrimination against African-American guests" on the short-term rental platform Airbnb. The researchers found that individuals with "distinctively African-American names" are less likely than others to be accepted as guests by potential hosts.
The study, titled "Racial Discrimination in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from a Field Experiment," collected data on Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. The researchers inquired into roughly 6,400 listings between the five cities, and found that if your name sounds "distinctively African-American," you are 16 percent less likely to be accepted as a guest.
This discrimination existed regardless of the race or gender of the host, and "[effects] persist both for hosts that offer an entire property and for hosts who share the property with guests."
The study goes on to point out how this discrimination, enabled by Airbnb, could possibly (or already has) bleed into the traditional hotel marketplace.
"If a hotel lists a room on Expedia, platform rules effectively prevent the hotel from rejecting a guest based on perceived race, ethnicity, or almost any other factor," states the paper. "But if the same hotel lists a room on Airbnb (which some hotels have begun to do), it could reject a guest based on these factors or others."
The study was conducted by Benjamin Edelman, Michael Luca, and Dan Svirsky.
In conversation with the New York Times, Edelman spoke about how name sharing on short-term rental sites may need to be rethought.
“At some point you say, ‘You know maybe it’s nice to see people’s names and faces, but gee, think about the harm that this causes for some people.’”