Seattle Rental Ad Texts and Processes of Segregation: Using Craigslist to Understand Neighborhood Perception Patterns

Ian Kennedy , University of Washington, Seattle
Amandalynne Paullada, University of Washington, Seattle
Chris Hess, University of Washington, Seattle
Sarah Chasins, University of California, Berkeley

Recent work on racial residential segregation shows how individuals’ perceptions of neighborhoods influence their housing choices and therefore contribute to the reproduction of segregation. Rental housing advertisements are a form of public discourse about neighborhoods which both influence and reflect those perceptions. We use Structural Topic Models (STM) to investigate whether and how rental listings from the Seattle metropolitan area Craigslist page differ in association with neighborhood racial proportion. Listings from White neighborhoods emphasize connections to neighborhood history and culture, while listings from non-white neighborhoods offer more incentives and focus on development features, sundering these areas from their surroundings. Finally, analysis of security discourse reveals that not only is language about security more common in less White neighborhoods, but administrative data show that actual security systems are less common. Without mentioning race, these listings reveal racialized neighborhood perceptions which likely impact neighborhood decision-making in ways that contribute to housing segregation.

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 Presented in Session 208. Computational Demography