A new study (PDF) conducted by a group of Harvard students suggests that Asian hosts offering housing on Airbnb earn less than their white counterparts. The research paper, published in Harvard’s Journal of Technology Science, found that Asian hosts on average earn $90 less per week or 20% less than white hosts for similar rentals.
The study involved a data scrape of 101 Airbnb rentals from Oakland and Berkeley, California, that included profile pictures of hosts that clearly identified whether they are white or Asian. This 2015 study of Asian hosts on Airbnb only examines one particular market–San Francisco’s ethnically diverse East Bay–and did not include data from any other cities or metropolitan areas. A predictive model was created to determine the price differences in this area.
Interestingly, the study’s authors also found that the differential increases with the size and price of a rental. David Wang, who worked on the study, told NPR that “It’s interesting to see this extreme difference, especially in a peer-to-peer network.”
In 2014, Fast Company examined the question of whether sharing economy services such as Airbnb can help end discrimination, based on having both the guest and the host rated for the experience. However, a 2012 Harvard Business School paper found that non-black Airbnb renters were charging approximately 12% more for their properties in New York compared to their black counterparts.