We live in a world dictated by Yelp reviews. As the ever-wise Mac DeMarco once stated, “[Yelp] steals you away from the good place you may accidentally discover.” But whether you view Yelp as a helpful tool or a hindrance to spontaneity, here’s one thing you might not be aware of: Yelp can give insight into the impact gentrification has on the food industry.

A new study conducted by sociologist Sharon Zukin, Scarlett Lindeman, and Laurie Hurson of the City University of New York explores the relationship between race, gentrification, and restaurants. The study examined Greenpoint and Bedford-Stuyvesant, two rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the Yelp reviews in each ‘burb.

The disquisition found that Yelpers reviewing restaurants in Greenpoint—a historically Polish neighborhood—were more against gentrification in the neighborhood than those reviewing Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically African-American neighborhood.


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Research was conducted by using the top 10 most reviewed restaurants opened since 2005 in relation to the top 10 reviews of “traditional” restaurants in the area. Using this information, the study was able to determine whether or not the Yelpers were appreciative of the gentrified changes the cities were undergoing.

According to City Lab, the study found “reviews of Bed-Stuy restaurants were twice as likely to mention the surrounding neighborhood and three times more likely to mention it among reviews of trendy restaurants compared to Greenpoint.” Additionally, the content of the reviews differed based on location. Greenpoint reviews were more likely to receive comments from people hoping to preserve the historic culture, while Bedford-Stuyvesant received comments praising gentrification for changing the neighborhood “for the better.”


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According to City Lab,


[pullquote]When it came time to rate Bed-Stuy’s traditional, black-owned restaurants, many—if not most—reviews were negative and often reflected the same stereotypes that are noted above [‘dangerous,’ ‘gritty,’ ‘sketchy,’ ‘hood,’ and ‘ghetto’ to name a few]. These reactions lie in opposition to reviews of the cozy, authentic restaurants in Greenpoint. In this way, the study points out, ‘Yelp reviews mobilize racialized biases to effect a discursive redlining of majority-Black districts.’[/pullquote]


But many of the Yelpers in both neighborhoods did agree on one thing, and that was a reluctance towards hipsters. The study notes,

“The majority of reviewers in both neighborhoods, for instance, saw ‘hipsters’ as an alarming signal of gentrification. One Bed-Stuy reviewer referred to a restaurant as ‘a bastion of hipsters in a sea of poverty,’ while another reviewer forecasted that a Greenpoint restaurant would become ‘another douche-bag hipster lounge.'” 

Ultimately, the study alludes to a larger idea that these Yelp opinions can have a larger effect on society. The study explains, “intentionally or not, Yelp restaurant reviewers may encourage, confirm, or even accelerate processes of gentrification by signaling that a locality is good for people who share their tastes.”

[via Eater, CityLab]