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Airbnb Hosts Discriminate Against Black Renters, Study Says

by Keith Wagstaff /

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There is "widespread discrimination" on Airbnb against renters with African-American-sounding names, according to a working paper from Harvard researchers.

Overall, users with names like Latoya and Darnell were 16 percent less likely to be accepted as guests than those with names like Allison or Greg, according to the study.

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Unlike booking sites like Expedia and Priceline, Airbnb users create profiles with information about themselves, and then have to be accepted by the hosts before they can rent a room.

The researchers created sets of profiles that were exactly the same, except that one had a distinctly African-American-sounding name and the other a white-sounding name. They then reached out to the hosts of 6,400 listings across five cities.

It didn't matter whether the host was African-American or white, male or female; they all discriminated against users with African-American-sounding names looking for a room.

Related: Airbnb Rated the Best Place to Work, Dethroning Google

"We recognize that bias and discrimination are significant challenges, and we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community," an Airbnb spokesperson told NBC News in a statement. "We are in touch with the authors of this study and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with them."

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