back to article Airbnb hosts less likely to accept bookings from Black people than Whites

Airbnb guests perceived to be Black by hosts are slightly less successful at booking properties than White guests, according to a report from Airbnb itself. The report comes from Project Lighthouse, an effort Airbnb launched in 2020 to measure and tackle racial discrimination and bias on the platform. The initiative focused on …

  1. Oglethorpe

    Active, passive or no racism?

    If photos make only the tiniest difference and for only one race then, it seems like this means that the majority of supposed discrimination is passive and it's just that Black people are more likely to currently meet (or fail to meet) criteria that makes them more attractive to providers. In other words, this will resolve itself if they use Airbnb more. It see this as being akin to looking at a gym where the majority of long term members are race x, the majority of new joiners are race y and concluding that race x is better at working out than race y (or that the gym doesn't cater to the fitness needs of race y).

    1. Oglethorpe

      Re: Active, passive or no racism?

      Apologies for the awful typos.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and it's just that Black people are more likely

      out of interest, why capitalisation of an adjective?

      1. Oglethorpe

        Re: and it's just that Black people are more likely

        It's an American term, used because African American was felt to be inadequately representative. Specifically, I'm mirroring the wording used in the report to avoid ambiguity.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Active, passive or no racism?

      But how can they use AirBNB more if their bookings aren't accepted?

      1. Oglethorpe

        Re: Active, passive or no racism?

        The vast majority are in all cases.

    4. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Active, passive or no racism?

      The figures also do not represent how many bookings are canceled after being made successfully, which on AirBnB hosts have been doing more and more frequently.

      This can seriously skewe the statistics of actual stay completion; just because you book the property with AirBnB does not mean that you are 100% guaranteed your stay. Some hosts may be allowing the booking without bias, only to apply their personal biases later once they learn more about the guest.

      1. Oglethorpe

        Re: Active, passive or no racism?

        I'm just commenting on the results of the study, not society in general. If you have statistics that support your claim, please link to them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why no breakfast

    On an only vaguely related note, why are there no breakfasts offered at an Airbnb, given bnb traditionally means bed and breakfast?

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Why no breakfast

      AirBnB has effectively killed the B&B market, primarily because signing up provides the host with a more reliable revenue stream at less outlay (indeed almost zero expense).

      I used to travel extensively within the UK, and it was (30 years back) possible to turn up in a town, find a B&B from a sign in the window, and stop for the night. Often, if the first one found was full, they'd recommend another nearby. Now, everything has to booked (and therefore planned) in advance and there's no breakfast.

      1. Rikki Tikki Bronze badge

        Re: Why no breakfast

        30 years ago (alright, 35) I could probably manage that sort of caper too - turning up in a town and finding a room in a pub or some such. But the quality could be variable, and availability not guaranteed. The Australian market was a bit different to the UK, of course.

        Now, using Airbnb, I can at least have confidence that I have somewhere to stay and can do a bit of filtering for quality of accommodation and host. I don't miss the breakfast much - preferring to fix my own (with less sugar and less fat, doctor's orders!).

        There are other downsides to Airbnb - have found some dreadful places, and once being cancelled with 2 days notice. Also, it is becoming harder to find listings that aren't obviously run by a corporation.

        On the racism thing, travelling with an Asian wife, I haven't noticed any evidence of that (but of course that's just me, not a valid global observation) - though of course we now have sufficient brownie points for it not to be a problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why no breakfast

          quality might have been 'variable', but there was a high chance of a roof over your head. These days, you'd be fucked. Unless you had a mobile phone at hand with internet connection - and even that might cost your an eye-watering amount. Basically, this (...) approach has made me (and majority, if not all people) absolutely dependent on pre-everything. And if you just happen to fall out of the loop in an unknown place, instead of thinking rationally and calmly, you'd be running around like a headless chicken as you have nowhere to stay and the police do not like strays, etc.

          ...

          and to think that I went overland from Europe to China and back, only 20 years ago, and only with initial leg of the journey booked (a bus to Istanbul) - and absolutely no stress along the way about either transport of accommodation...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why no breakfast

      But there is breakfast, it’s air, very trendy.

  3. Whitter
    Meh

    Hard to read the tech paper

    The tech paper behind this story is here:

    https://news.airbnb.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2020/06/Project-Lighthouse-Airbnb-2020-06-12.pdf

    I couldn't see if other variables (maybe #previous uses of Airbnb and reviews thereof) were also visible to the property owners. If any such data was there (I've never used Airbnb so I've no idea how the system works), I could see no attempt to establish if there was bias in the other variables between the perceived racial groups. But the tech paper wasn't a nice read, so I'll admit I didn't spend too long trying to understand it.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Hard to read the tech paper

      That was a different paper. You want this one:

      https://news.airbnb.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/12/A-Six-Year-Update-on-Airbnbs-Work-to-Fight-Discrimination-and-Build-Inclusion-12122022.pdf

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Online booking services

    These are just cartels and/or middlemen.

    I’ve often found better prices if you ring the proprietor direct.

  5. ChrisC Silver badge

    "In 2018, Airbnb removed the ability to see a guest's name and photo when they reserved properties or rooms, to prevent racial discrimination. Now, the information is only revealed after a host has accepted and confirmed a booking.

    Still, hosts can guess what a person might look like from other types of data, such as their name, for example."

    ???

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      good catch

      The linked pdf only mentions removing the photo in 2018.

  6. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    confounding variables

    Since they appear to have made no effort in their analysis to control for other variables, I wonder if they will really be able to get closer to their stated goal. "... we are exploring changes to Host and guest profiles to highlight information that fosters more connection, such as interests and the kinds of activities guests enjoy while traveling." Doing something like that could actually make the booking rate by perceived race metric worse. There must be at least one person in the meetings who understands this. The cynic in me wonders if the top-down decision was something like "Shush, most of our customers don't understand statistics, so we only need to _appear_ to be trying to make things better."

  7. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Holmes

    Much ado about nothing?

    "Our 2021 data shows that guests perceived to be Black were able to successfully book the stay of their choice 91.4 percent of the time, versus 94.1 percent for guests perceived to be White,"

    Unless my government education math is wrong, that is only a difference of 2.7%. The three other races identified are all in the middle of that range which makes the Black vs White the outlying statistics. The average is 93.1%. So Blacks are 1.7% less than average and Whites are 1% more than average.

    The associated document indicates that is from 750k randomly selected 2021 reservation requests. So they did select from a large sample, which is good. I couldn't find any reference for a margin of error though. The basis is "Guests perceived" to be a certain race. That is a subjective measurement and not an objective measurement, which makes the data susceptible to a margin of error. What I perceive to be a certain race is different from what you will perceive. To which race is a 50/50 mixed race person 'perceived' to belong?

    I don't deny the numbers exist, but I do question how big of a deal this is. These are small single percentage point differences. Not double digit percentages. There MUST be some variance, that is how statistics work. One statistic will be at one end, and a different statistic will be at the other end. And the nature of perception introduces a margin of error.

    My point is the data does not support a response with damning condemnation of AirBNB. It seems this data actually validates there is not a massive systematic discrimination issue.

  8. Chris Roberts

    Was the discrimination affected by the race of the host at all?

  9. gerryg

    On the other hand

    The data cannot show the bookings not made because of the perceived race, age or sex of the host.

    But let's not forget (and I speak as an Airbnb user) these are usually spare rooms in someone's house (my experience in Europe) and y'know, my house, my choice not mi casa su casa

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Interesting...

    ...but is this a USA only thing? Latino is not a word commonly used outside of the US, which also means people the report describes as "asian" might well be very different to who in the UK would be called asian. AirBNB operate across Europe and many other parts of the world too. Are those countries included in the survey and if so, the wildly different "markets" would easily skew the results. What about the results in predominantly black countries?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Interesting...

      A person who is Asian is a person who is from Asia in both Uk and elsewhere. Some may be British Asian if they have a British nationality with an Asian ethnicity. But the definition of the Asian continent remains pretty consistent regardless of where you are in the world.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Interesting...

        The British call someone Asian if they are from (say) India. This seems to be a UK thing. An Asian in Australia is someone from China, Japan, South East Asia etc, but never India.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Interesting...

          The British see everyone from Asia as Asia, same as the rest of the world. India is in Asia, so is China,

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they also ask whether there had been a history of bad behaviour in the properly by previous tenants of a certain type perhaps ? Usually if someone has a business they don’t decline a transaction unless they have a good reason

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