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Looking for Gentrification? Follow the Rat Complaints

A surprising number of puns get squeezed into an article rat complaints as a better harbinger of gentrification than...rats.
May 26, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ludovic Bertron

"Where there are people, there are rats. Or, more accurately: Where there are well-off white people, there are complaints about rats," according to an article Emily Lipstein.

Lipstein is taking umbrage with publications that don't note the distinction between those two points, namely, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

I’ve lost my mind twice in the past year (for rat-related reasons) after reading pieces from the New York Times and the Washington Post about the supposedly exploding rat populations in New York and D.C. The problem is that claims about where these cities are the rattiest are being based on the public records of calls to 311 about them. And there are some very important qualifiers you’re going to want to keep in mind when using that data.

In the interest of disclosure, Planetizen picked up a story about increasing rat complaints in New York City in 2018. But basing a story about increasing numbers of rats based on the number of rat complaints placed to 311 is exactly the editorial choice Lipstein is concerned about. According to Lipstein's research, mapping 311 reveals more about gentrification than the rat population. "It became clear that mapping 311 calls isn’t a good way to tell where rats are; it’s a way to tell where the wealthy white people live."

Click through to see how many puns and rat jokes Lipstein can make while making this point.

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Published on Friday, May 24, 2019 in The Concourse
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