Lonely Planet Writer

Survey claims African American names suffer Airbnb discrimination

People with names that suggest that they are black are discriminated against by hosts on the Airbnb website a study has shown.

Airbnb has admitted there is a problem with discrimination and wants to work on it
Airbnb has admitted there is a problem with discrimination and wants to work on it

A Harvard Business School survey of 6,000 hosts from five different cities in the States showed that people who had a name that sounded African American were 16% less likely to get a positive response from a potential host.

The survey was carried out in Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St Louis, and Washington DC by three Harvard researchers. One of the observations made during the survey was that Airbnb’s model that encourages both host and guest to share a large amount of personal information on their profile, which facilitated discrimination.

In the survey identical profiles were used, with the sole difference that the names that appeared were different. When the profile had a name that sounded like it might belong to a white person and they applied to a host to stay at their accommodation, the survey showed that there was a 50% success rate for a positive response. If the name on the profile was one associated with African Americans, the success rate dropped down to 42%. The survey also showed that black hosts were as likely to discriminate as white hosts.

Screengrab from Airbnb ad
Screengrab from Airbnb ad

Airbnb released a statement after the results of the survey were published, admitting that there was a problem of discrimination and that they were addressing it.

“We are in touch with the authors of this study and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with them,” they said. They went on to say that they were looking for help from “anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community.”