Study uses Google Street View to Assess Gentrification

By assessing three different groups of indicators, researchers were able to tour thousands of blocks in Chicago through Google Street View and compare visual signs of reinvestment and renewal between 2007 and 2009.
August 7, 2014, 8am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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As reported by Alissa Walker at Gizmodo, a new study by Jackelyn Hwang and Robert J. Sampson published in the American Sociology Review followed the movement of middle and upper-middle-class residents within Chicago's various neighborhoods. However, instead of looking at migratory patterns via Census records, Hwang and Sampson were able to, "isolate three different groups of indicators found on Google Street View images—structural mix, beautification, and lack of disorder and decay—to rank each block" for reinvestment and renewal.

Besides ranking assessed from indicators based on the properties, the study also factors in other forms of investment or disinvestment. For example, "speed bumps and bike lanes are proof of public investment and therefore boosted the block's rating. The presence of trash and graffiti... resulted in a lower score."

Some of the results found when cross-referencing the study's predictors with actual city data help to quantify the spread of gentrification. As Walker notes,

"while [Hwang and Sampson] could clearly see which blocks had showed early signs of gentrification, the process was only likely to continue if at least 35 percent of the residents were white. Even if some gentrification signs were present in neighborhoods that were 40 percent or more black, the process slowed down or eventually stopped."

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Published on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 in Gizmodo
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