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Study Shows Airbnb Users Have Racist Patterns When Booking Rooms

Does Airbnb have a racism problem? The hugely popular website, which lets people rent out either their apartment or a bedroom in it for a fraction of the cost of a hotel, may be experiencing racist tendencies when it comes to renting practices among users. A new study reports that people are less likely to rent homes on the site from African-American hosts, ultimately forcing them to rent out their homes for a price that is 12% less on average.

The study from two Harvard Business Schools professors titled Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com, Benjamin Edelman and Michael Luca argue that the site’s layout and use of large profile photos make it easier for potential renters to discriminate. The professors write that “these differences highlight the risk of discrimination in online marketplaces, suggesting an important intended consequence of a seemingly-routine mechanism for building trust.”

Airbnb wrote in a statement to Re/code that they oppose discrimination in any form and that patterns among renters have no reflection on the site. The company said their Terms of Service prohibit any content that is discriminatory and that Airbnb is “committed to making the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent community in the world.”

Airbnb was valued at $2.5 billion as of last July, making it one of the most successful online websites at the moment.

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