December 10, 2015
The lack of anonymity on Airbnb may lead to persistent racial discrimination, a working paper from Harvard Business School found. Renters with names that sounded African American had a harder time booking reservations on the site than those who had white-sounding names, according to the study. Researchers set up 6,400 fake profiles of Airbnb guests and assigned them stereotypically white or black names, based on Massachusetts birth certificate data from the 1970s. None of the guest profiles had identifying pictures. They used the accounts to request bookings with hosts in five cities: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Airbnb hosts decide whom they want to rent to; requests from white guests got “yes” responses 50 percent of the time, vs. 42 percent for black applicants….