Housing Search in the Age of Big Data: Smarter Cities or the Same Old Blind Spots?

22 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2020

See all articles by Geoff Boeing

Geoff Boeing

University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy

Max Besbris

Rice University

Ariela Schachter

Washington University in St. Louis

John Seungmin Kuk

Washington University in St. Louis; University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: January 30, 2020

Abstract

Housing scholars stress the importance of the information environment in shaping housing search behavior and outcomes. Rental listings have increasingly moved online over the past two decades and, in turn, online platforms like Craigslist are now central to the search process. Do these technology platforms serve as information equalizers or do they reflect traditional information inequalities that correlate with neighborhood sociodemographics? We synthesize and extend analyses of millions of US Craigslist rental listings and find they supply significantly different volumes, quality, and types of information in different communities. Technology platforms have the potential to broaden, diversify, and equalize housing search information, but they rely on landlord behavior and, in turn, likely will not reach this potential without a significant redesign or policy intervention. Smart cities advocates hoping to build better cities through technology must critically interrogate technology platforms and big data for systematic biases.

Keywords: bias, big data, craigslist, critical GIS, digital divide, economic geography, filter bubbles, gentrification, housing, housing law, housing market, housing policy, housing supply, housing search, inequality

JEL Classification: O18, R21, R31, R00

Suggested Citation

Boeing, Geoff and Besbris, Max and Schachter, Ariela and Kuk, John Seungmin, Housing Search in the Age of Big Data: Smarter Cities or the Same Old Blind Spots? (January 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3528765 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3528765

Geoff Boeing (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626
United States

Max Besbris

Rice University ( email )

6100 South Main Street
Houston, TX 77005-1892
United States

Ariela Schachter

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States

John Seungmin Kuk

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

1 Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
University City, MO MO 63130
United States

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

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