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MapLab: Zooming Into Segregation

A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.
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MIT Media Lab

To chart the forces of urban inequality, mapmakers will usually look to neighborhood tracts. That’s where the best data tends to be available about things like racial clustering, housing prices, commute times, and other indicators of divisions.

But what happens when you zoom closer? Inside shops, restaurants, bars, schools, and other hubs, communities that look diverse from the outside can turn out to be pretty homogenous. A new mapping project from researchers at MIT’s Media Lab and Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid draws on novel types of data to show how that’s true across greater Boston. There, as in other cities, the daily routines of individuals across the economic spectrum lead to “micro-segregation” at the address level—i.e., where people actually spend time and money.