Airbnb calculates who gets and gives the best reviews (and young hosts don’t look good)

Renting a room or an apartment on Airbnb is kind of a crapshoot, but the service recently crunched some numbers to figure out what factors play the biggest role in positive reviews. It might seem like trivial research, but you couldn’t blame Airbnb hosts or guests for taking notice. We’re in an age of Data Darwinism, as Om put it, where those who get the best reviews are the ones who will thrive.
Here’s what Airbnb found, in a nutshell, according to blog post author Riley Newman (note: the research focused on private room rentals only):

  • Youngish guests and males give better reviews.
  • Older hosts and female hosts get better reviews.
  • Earlier booking correlates with better reviews.
  • Smaller groups tend to give better reviews.
  • The best city to stay in, in terms of positive reviews: Tampa, Fla.

So, should Airbnb hosts start choosing potential guests based in part on factors like age, sex and group size? Maybe, maybe not.
Reviews aren’t a black or white situation, and Airbnb’s numbers — which it calls the Hospitality Index — reflect this. For example, while a guest’s sex does appear to matter, the effect is rather minimal (3.6 percent for females compared with 4 percent for males). Even where there’s a bigger discrepancy — say, in guest’s age (9.3 percent for 25-29 compared with 5.8 percent for 69+) — neither is approaching 100 percent. Presumably, plenty of older, female guests give glowing reviews.
This is also a classic correlation versus causation problem, which Airbnb’s Newman indirectly addresses by trying to explain the findings. Take, for example, his explanation of how age might affect reviews:

Older hosts tend to be more hospitable (possibly because they have more free time and experience). On the other hand, younger guests tend to be more generous with their reviews. This could be because they are more used to leaving reviews on websites or because they have lower expectations for the stay.

Or maybe older hosts just have nicer places, while younger hosts offer up cramped studios. Maybe the older guests who use Airbnb actually have worse experiences than their younger counterparts. Maybe there’s some ageism at play, where younger guests feel competitive with younger hosts but view older hosts as paternal figures. Who knows.
I’d posit that a good host with a nice place can probably garner a positive review regardless of who’s staying. Although large groups do seem a bit problematic.
SizeHowever, from the viewpoint of an occasional Airbnb guest, some of the numbers are hard to overlook no matter how much I scrutinize the findings. The difference between 20-to-24-year-old hosts (1.5 percent) and 50-to-69-year-old hosts (14.5 percent) is pretty striking and has me thinking maybe I should pay more attention to my hosts’ ages. The younger group might want to step up its game or risk becoming the Airbnb choice of last resort.