By Tanvi Misra
When I lived in my old D.C. neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, it was at that particular stage of gentrification where it seemed truly diverse. Taquerias and pupuserias stood right alongside indie theaters and grungy dive bars; the sidewalks were a multicultural mix of young, mostly white professionals and working-class people of color. But if you looked closer, you’d notice what some experts call “micro-level segregation.” People from different economic and racial backgrounds didn’t frequent the same bars, restaurants, and stores. Latinx residents seemed to hang out at Marleny’s, whereas more affluent newcomers would be seen at Marx Café—right next door.
In a new map, MIT Media Lab visualizes that kind of micro-level segregation in the Boston metro region to show that “economic inequality isn't just limited to neighborhoods,” as the researchers write on the website. “It’s part of the places you visit every day.” The map, which the MIT team hopes to expand to the 11 largest U.S. cities, is a part of ongoing research into how individual decisions and opportunities shape real-word urban issues so that “we can act and intervene in human behavior,” said Esteban Moro, the principal investigator at MIT Media Lab and an associate professor at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.