Predicting gentrification With Social Media Check-Ins

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April 13, 2016

If you have ever been perusing a social media site and thought to yourself, "Wasn’t it nice back when I wasn’t bombarded with the constant knowledge of where people I talked to once in high school currently are in the world?" you probably aren’t alone. But as it turns out, social media check-ins may be more useful than just letting you know Joe Schmo is “In Cancun, bro! Woooo!” 

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge used tens of thousands of social media posts on Twitter and Foursquare in an effort to quantify and categorize the ‘social diversity’ of an area or venue, Business Insider reports. The social diversity of an area is measured by determining whether it brings together a diverse group of strangers, or if there is more of a Cheers vibe, with friends and regulars being the main group of people occupying a locale where everybody knows your name.

A higher social diversity score (if a neighborhood was bringing together a large group of people who typically don’t interact) tended to directly correlate with the early signs of gentrification, such as decreasing crime rates or raising home prices.

Over a ten-month period, 37,000 users and 42,000 venues were tracked throughout the London area. Over 500,000 posts and check-ins were analyzed for the study. Without the use of social media it would have been very difficult to find the manpower and data points necessary to come up with the social diversity metric.

The most socially homogeneous areas tended to be either very wealthy or very poor, but the neighborhoods that had high social diversity along with high deprivation are the ones that are now experiencing gentrification. The data, which was collected in 2010, pointed to the London boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Hammersmith, and Lambeth as having high social diversity. Currently, all of these areas are now gentrifying.

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