Berlin breakdown: Is Neukölln really full of hipsters?

Berlin, 08/03/2017

How Neukölln has changed – ten years ago it was a forgotten corner infamous for its crime, now it’s the trendy German equivalent of Brooklyn or Hackney, the go-to place for young people looking to move to the city and the subject of a glossy new TV drama (4 Blocks).

But what do the people who spend time in Neukölln really look like? Does the reality match what the media would lead you to believe? We decided to find out.

We tapped our panel of anonymous smartphone users to understand how Berlin’s population breaks down geographically. For this study we used data from 47,530 people on how they move about the city, measured over 10 weeks.

What we found confirmed our suspicions: Northern Neukölln (and its more established neighbour, Kreuzberg) appear to be the areas with the highest proportion of young people in Berlin, as you can see from the map below. The more red the area the higher the proportion of people under 35, whereas more yellow ones have a higher proportion over 35.

The Locarta panel

Our panel consists of 500,000 users in Germany that anonymously send us location information.
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Neukölln overindexes on young people

– red indicates high share of people under 35 spending time in the area
– yellow indicates low share of this group spending time in the area
– intense colors indicate higher density of time spent (by anyone) in the area, no colors mean little time is spent in this area (by anyone)

And these young neuköllners are burning the midnight oil. As you can see in the animation below, the balance of people out and about in northern Neukölln skews heavily towards older people early in the morning, but gets much younger in the late evening.

A day in Kreuzberg and northern Neukölln

– red indicates high share of people under 35 spending time in the area
– yellow indicates low share of this group spending time in the area
– intense colors indicate higher density of time spent (by anyone) in the area, no colors mean little time is spent in this area (by anyone)

How does Berlin break down in terms of income? In general, the poorest areas of Berlin lie in the east. You might think that this is a consequence of the division of the city, with the old allied zone outperforming the soviet zone. But this doesn’t seem to be the case, since Neukölln was in fact part of West Berlin.

Instead the explanation may lie in an older phenomenon: the wind. Upmarket areas of European cities are often in the west (think Kensington in London, or the 16th arondissement in Paris), since the prevailing wind from the west would blow sooty, dirty air produced by the city away from them.

High earners concentrate in the west

– red indicates high share of people with high incomes spending time in the area
– yellow indicates low share of this group spending time in the area
– intense colors indicate higher density of time spent (by anyone) in the area, no colors mean little time is spent in this area (by anyone)

It’s when you put these together and measure older, high earners that northern Neukölln really stands out: they avoid the area more than anywhere else.

Older high earners cluster in west, avoid Neukölln

– red indicates high share of people over 35 with high incomes spending time in the area
– yellow indicates low share of this group spending time in the area
– intense colors indicate higher density of time spent (by anyone) in the area, no colors mean little time is spent in this area (by anyone)

So if Berlin is “poor, but sexy” as mayor Klaus Wowereit once put it, northern Neukölln is the area that seems to epitomise that spirit. Small wonder it’s an area whose profile is on the rise.