Do you have a name that sounds like a name a black person would have? If so, you might find it hard to rent an Airbnb.
A Harvard study has found that people with black-sounding names are more likely to be denied a vacancy.
The new study created 20 fake Airbnb profiles with stereotypically sounding black and white names. The researchers then sent inquiries to around 6,400 listings in major US cities. Hosts agreed to rent to the fictional profiles with white-sounding names 50% of the time, but only rented to profiles with black-sounding names 42% of the time.
White-sounding names were offered a rent 50% of the time while profiles with black-sounding names received positive responses 42% of the time.
And the race of the hosts didn’t matter. And discrimination was equal for men and women.
According to the study’s author, the fault in the system is that Airbnb revealed the true identity of a potential renter because a transaction occurs.
“Our result contributes to a small but growing body of literature suggesting that discrimination persists and we argue may even be exacerbated in online platforms,” said the study.
Another Harvard study in 2014 found that African American hosts on Airbnb made less money renting out their homes than white hosts. On average, white hosts charged 12% more than black hosts.
Asian hosts in a third Harvard study were found to earn 20% less than white hosts when similar apartments were taken into account.
Researchers suggest that Airbnb should conceal guests’ names or allow for pseudonyms.
“We recognize that bias and discrimination are significant challenges, and we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We are in touch with the authors of this study and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with them.”
Researchers argue that racist hosts who rejected guests with black-sounding names lost between $65 and $100 for each rejection.