A new study by Harvard professors suggests that having a distinctively African American name makes it harder to rent a place on Airbnb.
Renters with white-sounding names booked successfully 50 percent of the time, compared to 42 percent for African American names, according to the working paper.
It doesn’t matter if the host was white or African American, if they were sharing the place or not, or whether it was expensive or cheap. On all levels, African American-sounding names had a harder time booking a room.
“On the whole, our analysis suggests a need for caution: while information can facilitate transactions, it also facilitates discrimination,” wrote the three researchers, Ben Edelman, Michael Luca, and Dan Svirsky.
To study discrimination, the authors sent 6,400 requests from profiles of fake Airbnb guests, using distinctively African American or distinctively white names, and without profile photos. The researchers requested bookings in five cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.—and found that the African American-sounding names were accepted less frequently across the board: