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Do People Shape Cities, or Do Cities Shape People? The Co-evolution of Physical, Social, and Economic Change in Five Major U.S. Cities

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  • Nikhil Naik
  • Scott Duke Kominers
  • Ramesh Raskar
  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • César A. Hidalgo

Abstract

Urban change involves transformations in the physical appearance and the social composition of neighborhoods. Yet, the relationship between the physical and social components of urban change is not well understood due to the lack of comprehensive measures of neighborhood appearance. Here, we introduce a computer vision method to quantify change in physical appearance of streetscapes and generate a dataset of physical change for five large American cities. We combine this dataset with socioeconomic indicators to explore whether demographic and economic changes precede, follow, or co-occur with changes in physical appearance. We find that the strongest predictors of improvement in a neighborhood’s physical appearance are population density and share of college-educated adults. Other socioeconomic characteristics, like median income, share of vacant homes, and monthly rent, do not predict improvement in physical appearance. We also find that neighborhood appearances converge to the initial appearances of bordering areas, supporting the Burgess “invasion” theory. In addition, physical appearance is more likely to improve in neighborhoods proximal to the central business district. Finally, we find modest support for “tipping” and “filtering” theories of urban change.

Suggested Citation

  • Nikhil Naik & Scott Duke Kominers & Ramesh Raskar & Edward L. Glaeser & César A. Hidalgo, 2015. "Do People Shape Cities, or Do Cities Shape People? The Co-evolution of Physical, Social, and Economic Change in Five Major U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 21620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21620
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-95-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Margolis, Stephen E, 1982. "Depreciation of Housing: An Empirical Consideration of the Filtering Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(1), pages 90-96, February.
    3. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E. & Rappaport, Jordan, 2008. "Why do the poor live in cities The role of public transportation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-24, January.
    4. Glaeser, Edward L. & Scheinkman, JoseA. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1995. "Economic growth in a cross-section of cities," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 117-143, August.
    5. Schelling, Thomas C, 1969. "Models of Segregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 488-493, May.
    6. Bond, Eric W. & Coulson, N. Edward, 1989. "Externalities, filtering, and neighborhood change," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 231-249, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Scott Duke Kominers & Michael Luca & Nikhil Naik, 2015. "Big Data and Big Cities: The Promises and Limitations of Improved Measures of Urban Life," NBER Working Papers 21778, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C8 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs
    • R20 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - General
    • Y10 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Data: Tables and Charts - - - Data: Tables and Charts

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