Discrimination in the Shared Economy?

Featured Faculty:


Is there a discrimination problem in the shared economy?

According to research by Emory University’s Ruomeng Cui, users whose names suggest a certain race could result in discriminatory acts, particularly ignored or denied requests.

Cui and her colleagues set up fictional, thinly-populated Airbnb accounts with traditional Caucasian and African American names. Requests from African American names were accepted nearly 20 less often than those from guests with white names. The average acceptance rate of white guests was 48 percent compared to 29 percent among African-Americans.

But, by simply adding a positive review to the fictional account, results balanced — 56 percent acceptance for white guests and 58 percent for African American guests. Even negative reviews were found to eliminate discrimination in guest selection.

"This shows the cause of discrimination stems from the lack of information,” Cui says.

Users put more weight on details that are less obvious than names or perceived race, such as reviews and anecdotes.

Cui and colleagues recommend platforms such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, LetGo or OfferUp encourage users to provide reviews and feedback whenever possible in order to eliminate discriminatory practices.