Airbnb Users Pay more to Stay with Attractive Hosts

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New research also reveals a racial bias

PRETTY PEOPLE have all the luck. Studies show that the good-looking are considered more likeable, more intelligent and more employable than the rest of us. They also earn more. A well-known paper published in 1994 found that attractive men were paid 5% more than average-looking ones; attractive women made 4% more. In peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Airbnb and Uber, where buyers and sellers interact directly with one another, first impressions are particularly important. New research confirms that such online platforms are, in part, beauty contests.

In a paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology, researchers at Tilburg University and the University of Twente, both in the Netherlands, asked individuals recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an outsourcing platform, to rate more than 1,000 flats in New York City listed on Airbnb. Each listing on the room-renting service was evaluated according to the attractiveness and perceived trustworthiness of the host’s profile picture, on an 11-point scale ranging from “not at all” to “extremely”. These ratings were compared to the price of a stay.

Featured on Economist.com.

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