Mahesh Somashekhar, PhD
Building & Room:
1007 W Harrison St.
Mahesh Somashekhar’s core research agenda concerns how urban economic development and social inequality affect one another. More specifically, he studies the effects of commercial development on urban and suburban communities, with a particular focus on immigrant entrepreneurship, gentrification, and gayborhoods.
Somashekhar is currently pursuing three projects. The first aims to understand the effect of gentrification on local retailers and community organizations. To that end, Somashekhar is digitizing and geocoding the corpus of the Gayellow Pages, a U.S. directory of local organizations serving queer people that has been in continuous publication since the 1970s. He is using these data to understand whether queer organizations are surviving the gentrification of gay villages, and where they are moving when they are displaced.
The second project examines how ethnic economies, traditionally expressed as business clusters in neighborhoods like Chinatowns and Little Italies, are refashioning themselves as ethnic platform economies and online marketplaces in the 21st century. Somashekhar is using web scraping techniques to understand the missions, product offerings, and geographies of ethnic platform economies, and to compare and contrast them with territorially bounded ethnic economies.
The final project elucidates how central race and racial inequality are to gentrification and its effects on individuals and communities. For this project, Somashekhar is conducting a series of demographic analyses comparing White and non-White individuals displaced from gentrifying neighborhoods. Somashekhar is also investigating how economic development in gentrifying neighborhoods differs according to the racial composition of longtime residents as well as incoming gentrifiers.
Somashekhar’s research has been published in journals including Social Problems, City & Community, Urban Affairs Review, and Economic Development Quarterly. Prior to joining UIC, Somashekhar was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Washington. He earned a PhD and an MA from Princeton University as well as a BS from Columbia University. For the latest information about his research and public engagement efforts, please consult his website.