Asian-American Airbnb hosts have seen a marked drop in bookings during the pandemic

Asian Americans have been targets of racist abuse and physical assault since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, but their ability to earn money as hosts on the platform Airbnb online home sharing has also been significantly affected.

That’s according to a new working paper by economists from Harvard Business School, the Economics and Social Sciences Department of Telecom Paris, a public college specializing in higher education and engineering, and Paris Dauphine University. -PSL.

“After January 2020, hosts with distinctively Asian names experienced a 12% drop in guest numbers, as noted by reviews, compared to hosts with white-sounding names,” said researchers Michael Luca, Michelangelo Rossi and Elizaveta Pronkina. written in their diary.

A rise in anti-Asian sentiment has translated into discrimination in economic activity, they said, “highlighting how scapegoating minority groups can shape markets.” “Our results also highlight the role of platform design choices in discrimination,” the authors added.

The working paper, which was distributed Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, adjusted for hosts who may have been reluctant to accept guests and repeated their analysis — based on booking frequency and reviews — on “Instant Book” options.

“We do not observe spikes in discrimination against Black or Hispanic hosts, compared to pre-pandemic levels, further suggesting that the results reflect anti-Asian discrimination that has increased during the pandemic,” the authors wrote. researchers in their article.

The company previously announced research into alleged discrimination on the site — based in part on profile pictures and people’s names — at the start of the pandemic with the aim of understanding and addressing those biases.

“We do not observe spikes in discrimination against black or Hispanic hosts, compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

—Asian-American Airbnb Hosts Discussion Paper

“We condemn all forms of discrimination and are committed to proactively combating it,” an Airbnb spokesperson told MarketWatch in a statement. “In 2020, we launched Flagship Projecta groundbreaking initiative to uncover and measure discrimination when booking or hosting on Airbnb so we can continue to develop strategies to combat it.

“We are seriously reviewing this research to understand its basis,” the spokesperson added. “Although the researchers have not contacted us about their report, we plan to contact them for further information.”

The focus on Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus is believed to have originated in late 2019, and speculation that it started in a food market there, has led to increased reports of racism against people of ethnic origin. asian and sharing xenophobic memes online.

Anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents increased during the pandemic. The data of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, showed a 339% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes between 2020 and 2021, BNC News reported.

Earlier this year, a national survey of more than 2,400 Asian American, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women found that they were most often victims of racist incidents in restaurants and stores (47%) , and that these incidents mainly involved strangers (53%).

“Discrimination, harassment and violence against AAPI women – stemming from a long history of anti-AAPI sentiment and misogyny – are still rampant in society, occurring every day in public spaces, in schools and businesses, and even in our own neighborhoods,” the report says.

Meanwhile, the authors of the Airbnb report say hiding hosts’ full names and photos would help reduce bias. “If Airbnb only showed a host’s name after the reservation was made, there would be less opportunity for discrimination in the reservation decision,” they added.

In a similar move to tackle discrimination against black users on the platform, Airbnb announced end of 2021 that hosts in Oregon would only see a potential guest’s initials until a reservation was confirmed. The new policy, which took effect on January 31 and will remain in place for at least two years, came from the settlement of a lawsuit alleging the site allowed hosts to discriminate on the basis of race.

“As part of our ongoing work, we will learn all the lessons from this process and use them to inform future anti-bias efforts,” the company said at the time.

(Meera Jagannathan contributed to this report.)

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