Harvard Study Finds Airbnb Has a Discrimination Problem 

Researchers at Harvard Business School have found a discriminatory crimp in Airbnb’s business and UX model.

They surveyed over 6,000 Airbnb hosts (lodging proprietors) in five cities — Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St Louis, and Washington DC — and found that European American sounding names like Todd and Allison elicited a 50% success rate for a positive response of a room offer from the host… 

While for African American sounding names like Darnell and Tamika, the success rate dropped to 42%. 

They also found that this behavioral disparity was true across the board, for hosts of all ethnicities.

According to researchers, it would behoove Airbnb to take a cue from the very industry it is on a mission to disrupt: 

The hotel industry, wherein bookings are automatic and not subject to biased approval:

[Airbnb] could conceal guest names, just as it already prevents transmission of email addresses and phone numbers so that guests and hosts cannot circumvent Airbnb’s platform and its fees.

Communications on eBay’s platform have long used pseudonyms and automatic salutations, so Airbnb could easily implement that approach.

However, based on Airbnb’s response to this recommendation, they aren’t open to concealing names any time soon, citing a desire to maintain a certain level of trust between host and guest. 

Yet, the researchers question whether such a policy is more harmful than useful:

They require you to reveal your name, but to what end? What good does that do? Airbnb says it increases accountability – but how does it?

It’s important that Airbnb know the person’s name, but we don’t think the prospective host needs to know the prospective guest’s name.

Source: BBC News