'Jamal' Has a Harder Time Renting on Airbnb Than 'Brad,' Study Finds

SAN ANSELMO, CA - APRIL 21:  The Airbnb website is displayed on a laptop on April 21, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. Online home-rental marketplace Airbnb Inc. is about to receive more than $450 million in investments from a group led by private-equity firm TPG. The new investments will value the startup at $10 billion, significantly higher than some publicly traded hotel chains.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

'Jamal' Has a Harder Time Renting on Airbnb Than 'Brad,' Study Finds

Airbnb hosts discriminate against Black renters, a new study finds.

Published December 11, 2015

When looking for places to stay on vacation, many go to Airbnb to find accommodations that will give them an authentic experience as a local in the destination of their choice. 

As Black travelers begin planning their getaways for 2016, they may have similar desires, but unfortunately they may face bias from hosts on the platform before they book depending on how Black their name sounds, according to a study released Wednesday by Harvard University.

Researchers created 20 fake identical profiles without photos and gave them each names that were commonly associated with white and black people. The names chosen were based on data collected of names given to people born between 1974 and 1979 in Massachusetts. Researchers then sent out 6,400 messages to hosts in the following cities: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Their results show that profiles with "Black-sounding names" were given approval for booking 42 percent of the time. The profiles with white-sounding names received approval 50 percent of the time.

Some of the names used on the profiles included "Allison Sullivan," which was listed under white female; "Lakisha Jones," listed under Black female; "Brad Walsh" listed under white male; and "Jamal Jones," listed under Black male. 

Interestingly, both whites and African-American hosts and both male and female hosts discriminate. Both African-American women and men face discrimination. Additionally, the discrimination is consistent from high-priced to lower-priced units.

There is a price that comes with being biased, the study found as well. 

"To explore the cost to a host of discriminating, we check whether each property is ultimately rented for the weekend we inquired about," the reports states. "Combining that information with the price of each listing, we estimate that a host incurs a cost of roughly $65-$100 in foregone revenue by rejecting an African-American guest."

Airbnb has an anti-discrimination policy that prohibits content that promotes "discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group, and we require all users to comply with local laws and regulations," their site states.

However, much of the bias discussed in this latest study is practically undetectable to users. Airbnb is working to improve on these issues with the authors of the report.

"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," a spokesperson told the Huffington Post.

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Written by Natelege Whaley


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