Mitch’s Take: Note that only half of customers receive a positive review from Airbnb hosts in the presumed absence of discrimination. Half are negative, then? Why do Airbnb hosts put up with a barely positive experience, at best? Is Airbnb’s success a function of the struggling middle class? Could greater prosperity hurt Airbnb’s valuation as people take their rooms off the market?
Over the past year or so, as Airbnb has blossomed (the company is valued at $25 billion, with hosts in 34,000 cities, and 191 countries), travelers have increasingly been turned down by discriminatory hosts. A January study by the Harvard Business School offers data that buffers the anecdotal evidence: in the five American cities it covered, the study found African-American travelers received positive reviews 42 percent of the time. But 50 percent of white travelers received a positive review.