A new computer that can estimate household income is just the newest advancement in big data analysis.
Bouree Lam, a writer for The Atlantic, looks at how a new computer could predict wealth patterns across the world by analyzing Google Street Images. Researches Ed Glaeser, Scott Kominers, Michael Luca, and Nikhil Naik detail in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper how they trained the computer to spot patterns in images of city blocks in New York City and Boston.;
They use a standard machine-learning algorithm to map the relationship between visual elements and income. After that, the computer was fed Street View images it hadn’t yet seen—12,200 of New York City and 3,600 of Boston—and generated its income predictions for each one.
Those predictions ended up matching the incomes reported in the Census’s American Community Survey.