The inequality of Airbnb

Where do Airbnb money go?

[The previous instances of our Airification series are here and here. We also published a draft version of the full report ]

How shared are Sharing economy’s benefits? We estimated the annual income of hosts listing properties on Airbnb in 13 Italian cities and found that, somewhat contrarily to the rhetoric generally attached to the notion of sharing, the Italian Airbnb ecosystem is a profoundly unequal one.


We scraped the Airbnb website using code published online by Tom Slee and estimated each host’s revenues by multiplying the number of reviews of each listing by the price charged per night, assuming an average stay of three nights. Listings were grouped per host and the Gini index – a commonly used measure of inequality – was calculated for each city. The exercise was repeated at two points in time: the second weeks of February 2016 and February 2017.


The table below shows the Gini coefficient of the distribution of Airbnb revenues among hosts in 13 Italian cities. Inequality is extremely high in all the cities, and has increased between 2015 and 2016 in ten of the thirteen cities examined. In most cities a handful of operators listing several properties are capable of amassing more than two thirds of the total revenues generated on the website. To what extent this phenomenon is due to businesses operating as agencies listing third-party properties for STR (short term rental) should probably be the subject of further investigation. However, in comparison, we note that the Gini index of Airbnb revenues in all the cities considered – ranging from .51 in Genoa and Bari and .70 in Milan – greatly exceeds the nationwide Gini income inequality index (.36). This suggests that the supposed benefits of the platform are appropriated very disproportionately by a small number of users.

City Gini Idx 2015 Gini Idx 2016
Bari .52 .51
Bologna .54 .63
Catania .58 .67
Firenze .65 .66
Genova .57 .51
Matera .52 .61
Milano .62 .70
Napoli .54 .59
Roma .65 .62
Siena .58 .59
Torino .54 .61
Venezia .57 .60
Verona .54 .57

The figures below show the distribution of 2016 revenues among Airbnb hosts.

Bari Bologna Catania Firenze Genova Milano Matera Napoli Roma Siena Torino Venezia Verona

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Themes: Urban Geography

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