Predicting neighborhood change using big data and machine learning: Implications for theory, methods, and practice - Part 1

Urban Displacement Project


January 9, 2020 to January 10, 2020
9:15am to 4:30pm
UC Berkeley

This symposium will convene an international group of urban researchers with deep interests in data science and neighborhood change. Despite decades of research on neighborhood change, there has been little corresponding methodological development: studies still tend to either rely primarily on demographic data aggregated at the neighborhood level (which masks complex and micro-scale causal dynamics), or on in-depth case studies (which present challenges for generalization). Advances in data science, particularly if informed by critical urban theory, offer the potential to remedy some of these methodological shortcomings. For instance, real-time data on activity patterns, such as geotagged tweets, can help overturn traditional conceptions of residential segregation (Shelton, Poorthuis, and Zook 2015), and bridge time lags in census data (Hristova et al., 2016). Using machine learning techniques, we can also analyze existing patterns of neighborhood ascent and decline in order to predict future change (Reades, de Souza, and Hubbard, 2019). To the extent that these and other approaches support an early warning system designed to be readily understood by stakeholders, they have the ability to empower communities, at a minimum, and potentially to transform policy as well (Chapple and Zuk 2016).

Symposium events will held at UC Berkeley on January 9-10, 2020, and at the University of Sydney on August 10-11, 2020, with each two-day program consisting of a mix of keynote speakers, seminars, panels, and workshops with data science researchers and government officials. We expect to publish the results of our work in a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal, to be determined.

This conference is full and registration is closed.  Please contact Karen Chapple ( for more information about this initiative and/or to request to be added to the mailing list for the Sydney meeting.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Submissions due by September 20, 2019
We are seeking papers about neighborhood change that innovate by using user-generated geographic information, social media data, machine learning, image processing, or the like. We are particularly interested in theoretically informed studies that adopt a comparative lens or mixed methods.  If you would like to present a paper, please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words by September 20, 2019 to Please specify which conference you would like to attend: Berkeley, Sydney, or both. Unfortunately we cannot offer any funding to support travel. Authors of the selected abstracts will be notified by early October and be expected to submit their completed papers by one week before each conference.

Conference Organizers
Project Leads
Karen Chapple; Professor and Chair, City and Regional Planning; University of California, Berkeley
Nicole Gurran, Professor and Chair, Urban and Regional Planning and Policy; University of Sydney
Somwrita Sarkar; Senior Lecturer, Design; University of Sydney
Project Team
Cynthia Goytia; Professor and Director, Urban Economics; Universidad Torcuato di Tella
Ate Poorthuis; Assistant Professor, Geography; Singapore University of Technology and Design
Jon Reades; Senior Lecturer, Quantitative Human Geography; King’s College, London
Matthew Zook; Professor and Interim Chair, Geography; University of Kentucky

Karen Chapple -- Professor and Chair, City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley,

This conference is made possible with support from the Urban Studies Foundation, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Sydney. At Berkeley, the conference will be held at the Berkeley Institute of Data Science, which is a co-sponsor of the Berkeley event. The Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley aims to understand the nature of gentrification and displacement in American cities, focusing on creating tools to help communities identify the pressures surrounding them and take more effective action



Karen Chapple

Professor and Chair, City & Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where she holds the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies.

Chapple studies inequalities in the planning, development, and governance of regions in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on economic development and housing. Her recent books include Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development (Routledge, 2015), which won the John Friedmann Book Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Planning; Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, MIT Press, 2019); and Fragile Governance and Local Economic Development: Theory and Evidence from Peripheral Regions in Latin America (with Sergio Montero, Routledge, 2018). She has published recently on a broad array of subjects, including the fiscalization of land use (in Landscape and Urban Planning), urban displacement (in the Journal of Planning Literature and Cityscape), community investment (in the Journal of Urban Affairs), job creation on industrial land (in Economic Development Quarterly), regional governance in rural Peru (in the Journal of Rural Studies), and accessory dwelling units as a smart growth policy (in the Journal of Urbanism).

In Fall 2015, she co-founded the Urban Displacement Project, a research portal examining patterns of residential, commercial, and industrial displacement, as well as policy and planning solutions. In 2015, Chapple's work on climate change and tax policy won the UC-wide competition for the Bacon Public Lectureship, which promotes evidence-based public policy and creative thinking for the public good. Chapple also received the 2017 UC-Berkeley Chancellor's Award for Research in the Public Interest. She received a Fulbright Global Scholar Award for 2017-2018 to explore expanding the Urban Displacement Project to cities in Europe and Latin America, and was a Visiting Scholar at NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress, University College London's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analytics, Polytechnic University of Madrid, the University of Sydney, the University of Buenos Aires, and the Universidad de los Andes. In 2018-2019, she is serving as the senior faculty advisor in UC-Berkeley's Division of Data Sciences. She also serves as an affiliated faculty member at Berkeley's School of Information.

As a faculty affiliate of the Institute of Governmental Studies, Chapple is currently engaged in research projects related to sustainability planning, specifically, on residential and commercial/industrial displacement. Since 2006, she has served as faculty director of the UC Berkeley Center for Community Innovation, which has provided over $1.5 million in technical assistance to community-based organizations and government agencies. This has included research on the potential for gentrification and displacement near transit-oriented development (for the Association of Bay Area Governments); more effective planning for affordable housing and economic development near transit (for the Great Communities Collaborative); the relationship between the arts, commercial and residential revitalization in low-income neighborhoods; and the role of the green economy and industrial land in the California economy. She has also led a national contest sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to generate ideas for local and state job creation targeting disadvantaged communities. Chapple has also worked on regional and local economic development research projects in Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Israel, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and Abu Dhabi. She provides policy advice to many local, state, and national elected officials and has also served on the Berkeley Planning Commission.

Chapple holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from Columbia University, an M.S.C.R.P from the Pratt Institute, and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She has served on the faculties of the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to UC Berkeley. From 2006-2009, she held the Theodore Bo and Doris Shoong Lee Chair in Environmental Design. She is a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Building Resilient Regions. Prior to academia, Chapple spent ten years as a practicing planner in economic development, land use, and transportation in New York and San Francisco.

In her courses, which are on community and economic development, regional planning, and planning and economic analysis methods, Chapple brings planning practice into the classroom, links scales (from the parcel to the region) and disciplines (from design to economic development), and focuses on critical, balanced evaluation of ideologies and outcomes.