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Airbnb Finds Black Customers Less Likely To Get Reservations

Airbnb studied its data and found users perceived to be Black have a “meaningful difference” in their booking success rate compared to white users. The company had launched an initiative called Project Lighthouse to uncover and remedy race-based discrimination on its platform. Color of Change and other civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, helped develop Airbnb's project. A 2015 Harvard study found hosts were less likely to rent to users perceived by their name as Black.

All users will have their reservations successfully confirmed more than 90% of the time. However, Airbnb found a real gap based on apparent racial identity. Users perceived as white achieved a 94.1% booking rate compared to Black users, who had a 91.4% success rate. Users perceived as Asian and Latinx/Hispanic fall somewhere in between the two. Airbnb’s director of community partner programs and engagement told CNN, "It is something that we obviously are not okay with[,] and we are doing a lot to address."

Airbnb has removed guests' profile pictures, increased the number of people eligible for the "Instant Book" feature that bypasses host approval, audited booking rejections, and made it easier for all guests to receive reviews as part of its effort to address racial disparities. Project Lighthouse's data showed that guests with more reviews get more bookings, and guests perceived as white or Asian receive more reviews. Color of Change's president said, "Six years after Airbnb's first racial audit, and two years after Color of Change negotiated Project Lighthouse, Airbnb is now a leading example of what it looks like to back up the rhetoric of racial justice with the policy, practice and personnel that can prevent racial discrimination."