We, the undersigned cities, formally come together to form the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, to protect and uphold human rights on the internet at the local and global level.
We develop a computer vision method to measure changes in the physical appearances of neighborhoods from street-level imagery. We correlate the measured changes with neighborhood characteristics to determine which characteristics predict neighborhood improvement. We find that both education and population density predict improvements in neighborhood infrastructure, in support of theories of human capital agglomeration. Neighborhoods with better initial appearances experience more substantial upgrading, as predicted by the tipping theory of urban change. Finally, we observe more improvement in neighborhoods closer to both city centers and other physically attractive neighborhoods, in agreement with the invasion theory of urban sociology. Our results show how computer vision techniques, in combination with traditional methods, can be used to explore the dynamics of urban change.Which neighborhoods experience physical improvements? In this paper, we introduce a computer vision method to measure changes in the physical appearances of neighborhoods from time-series street-level imagery. We connect changes in the physical appearance of five US cities with economic and demographic data and find three factors that predict neighborhood improvement. First, neighborhoods that are densely populated by college-educated adults are more likely to experience physical improvements—an observation that is compatible with the economic literature linking human capital and local success. Second, neighborhoods with better initial appearances experience, on average, larger positive improvements—an observation that is consistent with “tipping” theories of urban change. Third, neighborhood improvement correlates positively with physical proximity to the central business district and to other physically attractive neighborhoods—an observation that is consistent with the “invasion” theories of urban sociology. Together, our results provide support for three classical theories of urban change and illustrate the value of using computer vision methods and street-level imagery to understand the physical dynamics of cities.
NDI is partnering with Living Cities—an organization that harnesses the collective power of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to get dramatically better results for low-income urban residents—on a research initiative to explore the innovative ways that megacity governments are strengthening urban democracy.