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A recent study conducted by two economists at the Trinity College Dublin in Ireland has found that male same-sex couples are more likely than heterosexual or lesbian couples to face discrimination on the accommodation rental service Airbnb.
The researchers, Rishi Ahuja and Ronan Lyons, created four separate accounts on Airbnb: a same-sex male couple, a same-sex female couple and two opposite-sex male-female couples (with a male making the accommodation request for one of the opposite-sex couples and the female making the request in the other).
The couples had generic names based on the most popular Irish baby names in 2015. None of the couples had any pictures to represent them.
Researchers then used the accounts to send out 794 identical messages asking for weekend accommodation from prospective renters in the Dublin area.
The message read: “Hello! My name is (male/female name) and my (boyfriend/girlfriend) and I are interested in renting your place for a few days. Do you have any availability? Thanks!”
Overall, the male same-sex couple fared the worst, getting 20 to 30% fewer responses than opposite-sex relationships. Interestingly, the female same-sex couples received the most responses overall, but were rejected a little more often than the opposite-sex couples.
Researchers concluded that male same-sex couples were more likely to have their inquiry e-mails ignored. “This difference is driven by non-responses from hosts, not outright rejection.”
Researchers said their study was the first to examine discrimination against same-sex relationships in the sharing economy, the term used to describe paid services between private individuals including like ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber.
They chose to study Ireland because it was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.
“While the popular vote to legalize same-sex marriage was a significant step towards a more equal society for the LGBT community in Ireland,” the researchers wrote, “this paper suggests that further educational initiatives and steps must be taken to engender true equality throughout all aspects of society.”
A 2016 Harvard study of Airbnb in the United States found that users with black names got rejected by prospective renters eight percent more often than users with white names.
Featured image by Drazen_ via iStock