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Who Gets the Lion’s Share in the Sharing Economy: A Case Study of Social Inequality in AirBnB (CSSS Seminar, 11/28/2018)

Posted: 11/26/2018 (Local Events)

Sharing economy platforms have rapidly disrupted and transformed many traditional markets. Companies such as AirBnB, in the housing market, and Uber, in the ride-sharing space, have thrived by creating opportunities for so-called “micro-entrepreneurs”, allowing them to leverage existing personal assets, such as a spare room or car, to generate additional income. While often heralded as an opportunity to reduce income inequality, opening opportunities through technology to a much larger segment of the population, there is however a latent concern that these platforms are in practice not as inclusive as advertised. In this talk I will present a case study based on AirBnB  listings in Chicago and examine a number of different dimensions regarding the hosts, their property and the environment within which they operate. Specifically I show who the hosts are by detecting hosts’ ethnicity, gender and age using images posted publicly on the site. I quantify how these hosts present their properties by measuring the aesthetic score of the main listing photographs using a deep learning algorithm. The results suggest an ethnical discrepancy that affects minorities from lower socio-economic backgrounds, even when taking into account location and other attributes such as price of AirBnB listings. The findings also suggest that a wider range of factors, such as poorer pictures of listings, maybe affecting the inclusion and that could be corrected with internal policies and assistance of the platform owners.

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Date: 11/28/2018

Time: 12:30-1:30 PM

Location: Savery 409