URI business professor, co-authors earn Best Article Award for look at ‘Disability in the New Sharing Economy’

KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 8, 2021 – Sean Edmund Rogers, an associate professor of management and the Spachman Professor of Human Resources and Labor Relations at the University of Rhode Island, was recognized by the Academy of Management with a 2021 Best Article Award for a co-authored paper published in Academy of Management Discoveries in August 2020.

Rogers co-authored the article, “No Room at the Inn? Disability Access in the New Sharing Economy,” with Rutgers University professors Mason Ameri, Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse.

“We are all especially honored that our work was recognized by our peers and proud of the impact this paper stands to have on management theory and practice,” said Rogers. “Given the novelty of what we were writing about – disability discrimination in the app-based platform economy – we specifically targeted Academy of Management Discoveries as a publishing outlet since it focuses on emerging management topics. We were thrilled when our paper was accepted for publication, and we are floored that it was selected as the best contribution of the year.”

With the growth of peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, Rogers and his colleagues wanted to explore whether access was equal for all potential users of goods and services. Recent studies had shown racial disparities, and the new study expands the research to examine the experiences of consumers with disabilities.

Using a randomized field experiment of 4,000 rental requests made through the Airbnb app, the study found that people with disabilities were significantly less likely to be afforded equal access to these services than those without a disability.

Researchers used rental requests from fictitious male adults who had one of four disabilities – blindness, dwarfism, cerebral palsy, or spinal cord injury – or no disability at all. Preapproval rates were significantly lower for travelers with disabilities than those without disabilities.

The preapproval rate for travelers without disabilities was 74.5%, compared to 60.9% for travelers with dwarfism, 49.7% for those with blindness, 43.4% for those with cerebral palsy, and 24.8% for those with spinal cord injury.

“Findings like the ones in this paper are important because current equal opportunity regulations and protections do not cover many ‘gig-economy’ goods and services,” Rogers said. “The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, was created long before firms like Airbnb existed or might have even been imaginable.

“As a result, the law contains exclusions that very well may leave most Airbnb hosts – as well as disabled travelers – outside of its coverage. Related to lodging, the ADA does not apply to host facilities with fewer than six rental rooms and that are occupied by proprietors as a place of residence. The overwhelming majority of hosts in our sample – 95% – fit this bill, suggesting a huge potential regulatory void.”

The results show the need for management theorists and policymakers to revisit the boundaries of firms and economic regulation of organizations in today’s sharing economy, Rogers added.

Along with his role as professor, Rogers is the College of Business’ executive director of inclusive excellence, graduate program director of the health care management program, and a faculty fellow in the Admiral James M. Loy Institute for Leadership at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He was recently elected to the executive board of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, a national organization of academics and professionals in industrial relations and human resources. A former sergeant in the U.S. Army, Rogers is a captain and health care administration officer in the Air Force Reserve.

Rogers’ research interests include unions and labor-management relations, employment discrimination and workplace diversity, and volunteerism. He is the co-author of more than 20 peer-reviewed papers published in such journals as the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management Review, International Journal of Human Resource Management, and Journal of International Management.