While Airbnb started in San Francisco and is often associated with a cheap lodging alternatives in major cities, those in rural areas seem to benefit almost equally. The median annual earning for rural hosts was $6,776 in comparison to the$6,674 median for urban hosts, according to a report released by Airbnb.
In rural areas where median incomes tend to be lower, Airbnb provides an additional source of income for the hosts. Since 2012, active Airbnb hosts in U.S. rural areas grew by 1,800%, outpacing urban users. In the past year, rural hosts earned a total of $494 million by renting out their homes to strangers.
The money that comes into rural areas from tourism can possibly boost these micro-economies as most of the new jobs being created in the US are concentrated in urban areas according to US News and World Report. Their data showed the job market is actually 4.26% smaller than 2008 in rural areas, explaining while many still feel the hardships of recession.
“Airbnb can be used as an economic development tool,” according to a study published by University College London. “It has been shown that Airbnb guests spend a considerable part of their money in the hosting communities.”
In 13 states—Ohio, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Arkansas, Maryland, Arizona, Vermont and Maine—the average rural host age exceeded 50. As these older Americans approach retirement, having that extra income can make all the difference. As of 2016, 30% of Americans age 55 and older held no retirement savings according to Money.
For women, the income from Airbnb can support business aspirations. Airbnb reported 50,000 women around the world used income from the home sharing app to support their own entrepreneurship.
“The biggest issue is not the number of women starting companies, but the access to capital as you move up the food chain,” said Susan Lyne, co-founder of BBG Ventures, to TechCrunch.
While the company claims to bring in tourism money into rural areas by teaming up with national parks, Airbnb is still subject to scrutiny due to the lack of regulation. Like many businesses part of the “sharing economy,” Airbnb battles local governments that have a hard time imposing rules. Tax collection for example, is a lot harder with individual hosts than a hotel chain. Because personal and professional boundaries are also blurred, Airbnb also faced discrimination complaints according to Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy and NYU professor.