Renters with black-sounding names less likely to be approved.
A new study from the Harvard Business School says persons who seeking to rent through Airbnb are likely to be turned down if their first name sounds black, according to an article on cbsnews.com.
The researchers say they inquired about 6,400 listings in five different cities, and found that African-American guests received a positive response to a rental request about 42 percent of the time, while guests with white sounding names averaged about 50 percent.
Airbnb requires its users to post their first names and a photo, but some users put up an icon instead of an actual photo. For the study, the research team created 20 accounts, some used white-sounding names like Brad or Kristen, and some accounts used names like Tamika or Jamal. All the profiles were identical in every other way and the team did not post any photos on the accounts.
They quickly pointed out that the study doesn’t mean the company is guilty of racism, and that the interactions only show the prejudices among the people using the service.
Airbnb said in a statement the company welcomed the opportunity to work with anyone who can help them reduce potential discrimination in the service and they were committed to being open, trusted, diverse and transparent.
The researchers noted that the discriminatory renting was not limited to white owners only. The study revealed that both black and white owners discriminated against people with black-sounding names as well. And the bias held up across gender, price and, in both diverse and racially homogeneous neighborhoods.
An earlier study by the same research team found that hosts that are non-black were able to get a higher premium for their rental properties than black hosts, even if the properties to be rented were similar in location and quality.
Still another study by the authors found that after looking at rentals in the Berkeley and Oakland, California, areas, Asian hosts tend to receive about 20 percent per week less than white hosts in the same areas.
It is unlikely that Airbnb could be held liable for discrimination, but some hosts, particularly those with multiple properties, could find themselves being investigated under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminatory practices in hotels and rentals according to the study.