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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Airbnb has revolutionized the tourism business. People now have the freedom to travel anywhere in the world and find a place to stay, easily and conveniently. It also brings economic benefits for not only the property owners, but the the surrounding areas as well.
That might not be true for everyone, though. According to The Washington Post, a new study has shown that Airbnb stays bring economic benefits primarily in white neighborhoods, and not so much for others.
Researchers at Purdue University gathered reams of data on this topic. They found that generally, Airbnb customers tend to eat in neighborhood restaurants and patronize other businesses when they stay with Airbnb, leading to a “spillover effect” in the local economy. However, when the neighborhood is more than 50 percent black or Hispanic, the researchers found that spillover to be far less pronounced.
“Airbnb has made repeated claims that it helps the local economy in black neighborhoods, especially in New York City,” said Mohammad Rahman, one of the Purdue professors behind the study. “We do not find any evidence of that economic spillover effect in restaurant employment.”
Rahman and his team gathered an extensive amount of data to conduct this study. They got demographic information about American neighborhoods from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, data on people’s stays from Airbnb, and 3.5 million Yelp reviews of more than 34,000 restaurants that they used to analyze the impact of people’s stays on the restaurant industry. They began by focusing on New York, but later branched out and found similar patterns in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco.
Airbnb, naturally, has fought back against claims of racial inequality in the company’s impact. Spokesman Nick Papas called the study “deeply flawed” and claimed that 95 percent of New York-based hosts recommend local businesses to their guests, regardless of race.
“Airbnb undoubtedly boosts local businesses,” he said. “Using a subjective and voluntary input like Yelp reviews to draw conclusions in what purports to be a rigorous analysis is wrong.”