Five Star Gentrification: Tracking Neighborhood Change Through Yelp Reviews

Authors: Sara Martucci*, Mercy College, Joseph Gibbons, San Diego State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: gentrification, urban change, big data
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Gentrification is viewed by many to be a key agent of urban change. Since the 1960s scholars have debated the causes, effects, and nature of the process. More recently, the role of retail and consumption patterns has become a focus of gentrification research. Previous research on this relationship has predominantly occurred through ethnographic studies at the neighborhood or event street level, yielding data that is rich but not generalizable. The present study utilizes Yelp review data to quantitatively track the relationship between retail and gentrification in San Diego, a city known to be experiencing gentrification. The location of gentrifying establishments is compared with housing value data made available from Zillow, a web-based reality service which provides monthly estimates of housing values at a census tract level. We draw on a form of locational network analysis to determine where gentrifying businesses tend to proliferate over time. We then compare this proliferation to shifts in local housing values. Using these sources we are able to leverage 'big data' from social media to make inference about the dynamics of neighborhood change.

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