Last spring, the 18-member
2020-21 class of Institute
Visiting Scholars was named.
Some established, some
emerging, they bring a
diversity of backgrounds and
research interests as they
examine what sorts of policies
work to improve economic
opportunity and inclusion,
When Milena Almagro began studying at New York University
in 2014, she lived in Brooklyn’s ultrahip Williamsburg neighborhood.
Finding it too gentrified to afford, she moved to
Bushwick, a less-hip adjoining neighborhood.
But Bushwick also was gentrifying. Latino families were
moving out, and childless young professionals were moving
in—people like her, in other words.
“I was a gentrifier,” Almagro said. “Just seeing that transformation
got me thinking about urban change and the welfare
implications of urban change.”
“I was a gentrifier.
Just seeing that
me thinking about
urban change and the
of urban change.”
Almagro and her NYU colleague Tomás Domínguez-Iino
studied the impact and proliferation of short-term rentals,
such as Airbnb. That's a disruption not unlike gentrification.
Looking at Amsterdam, Netherlands,
they used detailed data to build a
Others studying the same phenomenon
have only modeled housing,
but Almagro also modeled businesses
providing the goods and services that
make neighborhoods desirable and
how different demographics reacted to
changes in both.
A classic example is day care centers, which serve residents,
being replaced by bars, which benefit from tourism. While the
model showed rents rising for residents competing with the
likes of Airbnb, some suffer more because they can’t afford to
be close to day care providers that remain, some suffer less
because they can afford it, and some not at all because, being
childless, they gain more from an active nightlife.
More importantly, Almagro’s model could be used to evaluate
policies aimed at reducing disruption from short-term rentals.
She found, for example, that higher lodging taxes weren’t as effective
as capping the number of nights tourists can rent a home.
More recently, interest in urban change inspired Almagro
to examine why the rate New Yorkers tested positive for
COVID-19 was much higher in poorer, minority neighborhoods.
The greatest correlation, she found, wasn’t poverty or race but
certain jobs requiring more human contact, such as bus driver,
where these demographics are overrepresented.
That connection between jobs and infection risks suggests
that authorities could better prevent the spread of COVID-19
by giving these workers, not just health care workers, priority
for protective gear and testing.
These are the kinds of practical problems that made economics
an appealing field to Almagro. “Most of my research,”
she said, “comes from what I see in real life.”
More Scholar Spotlights from this issue