Racial Discrimination in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from a Field Experiment

36 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2015 Last revised: 2 Oct 2016

Benjamin G. Edelman

Harvard University - HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit

Dan Svirsky

Harvard Business School

Date Written: September 16, 2016

Abstract

In an experiment on Airbnb, we find that applications from guests with distinctively African-American names are 16% less likely to be accepted relative to identical guests with distinctively White names. Discrimination occurs among landlords of all sizes, including small landlords sharing the property and larger landlords with multiple properties. It is most pronounced among hosts who have never had an African-American guest, suggesting only a subset of hosts discriminate. While rental markets have achieved significant reductions in discrimination in recent decades, our results suggest that Airbnb’s current design choices facilitate discrimination and raise the possibility of erasing some of these civil rights gains.

Suggested Citation

Edelman, Benjamin G. and Luca, Michael and Svirsky, Dan, Racial Discrimination in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from a Field Experiment (September 16, 2016). Forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2701902 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2701902

Benjamin G. Edelman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.hbs.edu/bedelman

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=602417

Dan Svirsky

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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