Study Purports to Show Yelp Reviewers Tend to be Racist Towards Minority-Owned Businesses

In Depth

Oh, hey, look at that: according to a new study, Yelp reviews appear to have a tendency to be racist, as well as all the other negative qualifiers you’d care to lob their way. Fancy that.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Culture, appears to show that Yelp reviewers—at least those in New York—tend to be much more critical of minority owned businesses. Authored at CUNY by Sharon Zukin, Scarlett Lindeman, and Laurie Hurson, it looked at over 7,000 Yelp reviews of trendier restaurants in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn that have opened in the past ten years, as well as focusing on the top ten best-reviewed restaurants in both locations. They found 1056 reviews that explicitly mentioned the neighborhood—720 of which were focused in the historically-black Bed-Stuy, compared to 336 in the traditionally Polish Greenpoint.

The study didn’t just find a neighborhood mention disparity, though—it also found that when looking at the two neighborhoods’ “ethnic” restaurants, Greenpoint’s tended to be described as “authentic” and “cozy,” while Bed-Stuy’s tend to be described using words like “dangerous,” “hood,” “ghetto,” and “sketchy.” The authors came to the conclusion that reviewers were concerned about preserving Greenpoint’s ethnic white restaurants, but didn’t really care about Bed-Stuy’s.

Color me shocked by this whole story.

Image via Gil C/Shutterstock.

Contact the author at [email protected].

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