Reducing Discrimination with Reviews in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from Field Experiments on Airbnb

38 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2017 Last revised: 7 Aug 2018

Ruomeng Cui

Goizueta Business School, Emory University

Jun Li

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Dennis Zhang

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School

Date Written: December 8, 2016

Abstract

Recent research has found widespread discrimination by hosts against guests of certain races in online marketplaces. In this paper, we explore ways to reduce such discrimination using online reputation systems. We conduct four randomized field experiments among 1,801 hosts on Airbnb by creating fictitious guest accounts and sending accommodation requests to them. We find that requests from guests with African American-sounding names are 19.2 percentage points less likely to be accepted than those with white-sounding names. However, a positive review posted on a guest's page significantly reduces discrimination: When guest accounts receive a positive review, the acceptance rates of guest accounts with white-sounding and African American-sounding names are statistically indistinguishable. We further show that a non-positive review and a blank review without any content can also help attenuate discrimination, but self-claimed information on tidiness and friendliness cannot reduce discrimination, which indicates the importance of encouraging credible peer-generated reviews. Our results offer direct and clear guidance for sharing-economy platforms to reduce discrimination.

Keywords: Discrimination, Field Experiment, Information Sharing, Service Operations, Sharing Economy

Suggested Citation

Cui, Ruomeng and Li, Jun and Zhang, Dennis, Reducing Discrimination with Reviews in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from Field Experiments on Airbnb (December 8, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2882982 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2882982

Ruomeng Cui

Goizueta Business School, Emory University ( email )

1300 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.ruomengcui.com

Jun Li

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Dennis Zhang (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

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