Racial Bias in the Sharing Economy and the Role of Trust and Self-Congruence
100 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2019 Last revised: 2 Feb 2020
Date Written: February 02, 2020
We investigated whether people engage in racial discrimination in the sharing economy, and how such discrimination might be explained and mitigated. Using a set of carefully controlled experiments (N = 1,599), including a pre-registered study on a nationally representative sample, we find causal evidence for racial discrimination. When an identical Airbnb apartment is presented with a racial out-group (vs. in-group) host, people report more negative attitudes towards the apartment, lower intentions to rent it, and are 25% less likely to choose the apartment over a standard hotel room in an incentivized choice. Reduced self-congruence with apartments owned by out-group hosts mediates these effects. However, racial discrimination disappears when the apartment is presented with an explicit trust cue, in the form of a visible top-rating by other consumers (5/5 stars). This suggests that a reputation-based trust cue can counteract the tendency to engage in costly discrimination against products and services provided by out-group members.
Keywords: sharing economy, discrimination, trust
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