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 two projects. The first investigates the entrepreneurship patterns of undocumented immigrants in the United States. While it is illegal to employ undocumented immigrants, it is legal for undocumented immigrants to own businesses in the formal economy. Nevertheless, little is known about how firms owned by undocumented immigrants influence economic development and socioeconomic mobility trends.
His second project 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 LGBTQ+ people that has been in continuous publication since the 1970s. He is using these data to understand whether LGBTQ+ organizations are surviving the gentrification of gay villages, and where they are moving when they are displaced.
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.