[Marxism] Web sites may widen rich-poor gap
calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 17 03:44:43 MDT 2005
Info Web sites may widen rich-poor gap
LONDON (Reuters) - Web sites offering information on the social make-up of
neighbourhoods could increase the divide between the richest and poorest
places in Britain, a report said on Wednesday.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said internet-based neighbourhood information
systems already popular in the United States could enable househunters to
find their ideal spot to live but also lead to a more segregated society.
UK sites such www.upmystreet.com can help to guide buyers to locations with
the best schools and lowest crime rates.
The Foundation said similar sites in the United States, such as
wwww.homestore.com or www.bestplaces.net already enable people to search for
neighbourhoods that matched their prioritised criteria using extensive data
complied by market research companies.
"The technology available can not only sort people according to basic data
such as their incomes, but also according to individual tastes, consumer
preferences, lifestyle habits and so on," said Professor Roger Burrows, who
led the research team from the Universities of York and Durham.
"Until recently these segmentation processes have been largely invisible to
the public, but with the emergence of IBNIS it is entirely possible that
people will start using them to sort themselves out into neighbourhoods
where their neighbours are less diverse and more like themselves," he said.
The UK does not yet offer neighbourhood searches ranked by characteristics,
but a number of commercial sites offer information collected by postcode,
while the Office of National Statistics gives detailed information on the
demographics, deprivation and employment levels of neighbourhoods.
Several light-hearted Web sites claim to capture the social characteristics
of different places, usually in negative terms.
The Foundation said it was only a matter of time before the powerful
neighbourhood search sites available in the United States started to
reinforce the divide between the more and less prosperous locations in the
"While no one would want to prevent public access to neighbourhood
information, we should recognise the potential implications for
disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the people who live in them," said Burrows.
The charity said that, given the benefits of mixed income communities in
promoting social cohesion, it was important that greater public access to
the social sorting technology used by market research did not lead to ever
greater segregation between communities.
Burrows said that the Web sites should specify their sources and make it
clear how their information was compiled, while local people should also be
given the opportunity to challenge the way their neighbourhood was
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