Airbnb touts its economic impact in “diverse” neighborhoods, saying guests boost businesses in areas where tourism is not prevalent.
But a Purdue University study found white neighborhoods — not their black or Latino counterparts — are the ones most likely to benefit from an influx of Airbnb guests.
The study found that users of the home-sharing platform generally eat in the neighborhood restaurants near where they are staying. However, the spillover effect does not hold true when 50 percent or more of a neighborhood’s residents are black or Hispanic.
“We do not find any evidence of that economic spillover effect in restaurant employment,” said Mohammad Rahman, a Purdue University professor.
Rahman and his team researched the impact of Airbnb on restaurant employment growth in New York City, the most visited and active Airbnb city, in the U.S.
They analyzed neighborhood data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census and Airbnb as well as 3.5 million Yelp reviews of more than 34,000 New York City restaurants between 2005 and 2015 to measure the economic impact home sharing has on local restaurant employment. The researchers removed neighborhoods with tourism activity and controlled for restaurant popularity and neighborhood characteristics.
The researchers found neighborhoods experiencing rapid Airbnb growth typically saw a growth in restaurant employment and a surge in Yelp reviews, a measure researchers said confirmed their employment findings. But restaurants in predominantly minority neighborhoods with high rates of Airbnb bookings did not see an increase in employment or Yelp reviews. Visitors may be drawn to affordable accommodations in black and Hispanic neighborhoods — but not enough to eat there.
“Visitors may not feel comfortable wandering around and checking out restaurants in these minority areas,” Rahman said.
It could be the restaurants in these neighborhoods are not what people are looking for, he said.
The researchers expanded their study to five cities and found similar patterns in Austin, Texas; Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco.
Only one exception: The impact of home sharing on restaurant employment does extend to majority Hispanic neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas called the results of the working paper flawed.
“Using a subjective and voluntary input like Yelp reviews to draw conclusions in what purports to be a rigorous analysis is wrong,” Papas said.
According to the company, Airbnb guests spend 32 percent of their money in neighborhoods they stay in, and 95 percent of New York City hosts recommend small businesses. The company said it partnered last month with the Queens Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a tourism mixer where hosts mingled with representatives from neighboring restaurants and shops.
Papas said Airbnb guests in New York City are growing faster in predominantly black neighborhoods than citywide.
Rahman said he relied predominantly on government employment data.
He and his colleagues will analyze reviews on Yelp and Airbnb for “racial code words,” and the races of Airbnb guests.
“We cannot regulate and dictate how visitors are going to behave,” he said, “but if we can identify how race is playing a role, there are certain things that can be rectifiable when guests come into these minority neighborhoods.”