What’s in a name? Place misrepresentation and neighbourhood stigma in the online rental market by Ariela Schachter, John Kuk, Max Besbris, & Lydia Ho (2023)

Urban Studies: Special Issue- Digitalization, Neighborhood Change and Urban Social Processes


In this article we examine how the online rental housing market reflects the desirability of different neighbourhoods in St. Louis, MO, a metropolitan area with long-standing high levels of Black–White residential segregation. Using a large digital corpus of advertisements for rental housing, we first show that adverts in neighbourhoods with more Black residents are less likely to list a neighbourhood name than adverts for available housing units in neighbourhoods with more White residents. Advertisements for housing in neighbourhoods with more Black residents are also more likely to list a different, higher-income neighbourhood name than the one in which they are located. Next, using a survey of St. Louis residents, we find that neighbourhoods with more Black residents are perceived as less desirable by both White and Black St. Louisans. We then employ a pair of survey experiments and find that interest in renting a particular housing unit changes if the advert does not list a neighbourhood name or uses a different neighbourhood name than one commonly associated with its location. Altogether, our findings reveal that postings in online housing markets reflect and reproduce existing racial-spatial patterns and may contribute to the avoidance/stigmatisation of certain neighbourhoods.