July 25, 2016

Ride-hailing services are seen by minorities as a benefit to areas underserved by taxis

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Washington Post via Getty Images
Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Washington Post via Getty Images

Ride-hailing and home-sharing are two of the most talked-about sharing-economy services – and each has been drawn into a broader debate over whether people of color experience benefit from these new technologies.

In the case of ride-hailing apps, like Uber and Lyft, proponents of these services often argue that they can help promote racial equity in transportation – for instance, they might serve customers in lower-income or minority neighborhoods where traditional taxis are often scarce.

Overall, 15% of blacks and 18% of Latinos have used ride-hailing, similar to the 14% of whites who have done so, according to a Pew Research Center survey exploring the digital economy. And a new analysis of this survey data finds that Americans who live in majority-minority communities (census-block groups where more than 50% of residents are racial or ethnic minorities) are more likely than those who reside in predominately white neighborhoods to say that ride-hailing apps serve neighborhoods that taxis won’t visit. Just over half (53%) of ride-hailing users living in majority-minority communities feel that this statement describes ride-hailing well, compared with 46% of users living in majority-white neighborhoods. (Many ride-hailers – about four-in-ten overall – were unsure if this statement described ride-hailing well).

In sharp contrast to ride-hailing services, few blacks make use of home-sharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO: Just 5% of blacks have ever used these services, compared with 13% of whites. And although blacks are less likely than whites to say they travel overnight away from home for work or personal reasons, even among those who do travel on occasion, whites (16%) are still substantially more likely than blacks (5%) to use home-sharing services.

A Harvard Business School study found that users with “African American sounding names” were 16% less likely to be accepted as guests, and black and minority users have used the #airbnbwhileblack hashtag to share their frustrations and highlight possible discrimination. In response to these concerns, a group of senators recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into the home-sharing industry. And just this week, Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to develop an anti-discrimination policy for the platform.

Blacks overall make significantly less use of the range of 11 shared or on-demand online services that the Center studied in its survey. About four-in-ten blacks (41%) had not used any of those platforms compared with 26% of whites and 27% of Hispanics.

Topics: Race and Ethnicity, Emerging Technology Impacts

  1. Photo of Ruth Igielnik

    is a research associate at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Monica Anderson

    is a research associate focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous12 months ago

    Hispanic is not a race. For the discussion, what about people of Asian or Middle Eastern descent? Or any other minority (does this mean anyone not self identifying as “white non-Hispanic”? As a host myself in a mixed race household (white Hispanic and indigenous Hispanic), the majority of domestic guests (ie not international travelers) have been of Asian descent. I mean people who were born in or at least grew up in the US. There seems to be this divide at times of “white + Asian” on one side and “blacks and latinos” on the other of any discussion of majority-minority communities. We all know Asian Americans are not the majority in any state. So is the point of the article to highlight discrimination against black people? For the record, regardless of whether you are Jerrel, Shanika, or Carlton, your black-sounding name is always welcome in our home.

  2. Packard Day1 year ago

    There is indeed an odd paradox between what is both legally and ethically agreed upon as right in theory and what actually occurs in everyday reality. Unfortunately, most of us see these seeming contradictions all too often in our daily lives.

    Like being a strong advocate for Washington DC public education; but knowing full well that nether you nor any of your friends would ever (ever) allow your own children to attend one of those terrible schools (e.g. President & Mrs. Clinton’s and Obama’s real choices vis a vis the enrollment of their own daughters in Sidwell Friends private school.).

    “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue”…I suppose?
    Francois de la Rochefoucauld