Predicting gentrification through social networking data



Data from location-based social networks may be able to predict when a neighbourhood will go through the process of gentrification, by identifying areas with high social diversity and high deprivation.


We understand that people who diversify their contacts socially and geographically have high social capital, but what about places?
   - Desislava Hristova

The first network to look at the interconnected nature of people and places in large cities is not only able to quantify the social diversity of a particular place, but can also be used to predict when a neighbourhood will go through the process of gentrification, which is associated with the displacement of residents of a deprived area by an influx of a more affluent population.

The researchers behind the study, led by the University of Cambridge, were due to present their results yesterday (Weds) at the 25th International World Wide Web Conference in Montréal.

The Cambridge researchers, working with colleagues from the University of Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London, and University College London, used data from approximately 37,000 users and 42,000 venues in London to build a network of Foursquare places and the parallel Twitter social network of visitors, adding up to more than half a million check-ins over a ten-month period. From this data, they were able to quantify the ‘social diversity’ of various neighbourhoods and venues by distinguishing between places that bring together strangers versus those that tend to bring together friends, as well as places that attract diverse individuals as opposed to those which attract regulars.

When these social diversity metrics were correlated with wellbeing indicators for various London neighbourhoods, the researchers discovered that signs of gentrification, such as rising housing prices and lower crime rates, were the strongest in deprived areas with high social diversity. These areas had an influx of more affluent and diverse visitors, represented by social media users, and pointed to an overall improvement of their rank, according to the UK Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The UK Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is a statistical exercise conducted by the Department of Communities and Local Government, which measures the relative prosperity of neighbourhoods across England. The researchers compared IMD data for 2010, the year their social and place network data was gathered, with the IMD data for 2015, the most recent report.

“We’re looking at the social roles and properties of places,” said Desislava Hristova from the University’s Computer Laboratory, and the study’s lead author. “We found that the most socially cohesive and homogenous areas tend to be either very wealthy or very poor, but neighbourhoods with both high social diversity and high deprivation are the ones which are currently undergoing processes of gentrification.”

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Image: Gentrification in Progress
Credit: MsSaraKelly

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


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The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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