New Studies Say Gentrification Doesn’t Really Force Out Low-Income Residents – New York Magazine

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Gentrification, that once-wonky, now common concept, is a term freighted with moral urgency, resentment, and guilt, because almost nobody in a high-cost city can avoid it. You’re either suffering its effects or inflicting them, often both at the same time. Unless you leave town altogether — as hundreds of thousands of people of all income brackets do every year — saying good-bye to one neighborhood makes you a newcomer in another. At its most basic, gentrification is what happens when newcomers to a neighborhood arrive with more income or education than those who already live there. At its most politically charged, it’s treated as a form of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Yet gentrification’s status as a great urban evil, a ravager of lives and destroyer of communities, is based as much on faith as on fact. Most scholarly research on the topic compares snapshots of cities and neighborhoods at different times but loses track of what happens to the actual people who live there.

Now, a pair of studies has used Census micro-data and Medicaid records to track specific residents of both gentrifying and non-gentrifying neighborhoods — where they live, where their children go to school, when they move, and where they go. The researchers come up with some startling findings. In a paper published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Quentin Brummet and David Reed says that urbanites move all the time, for countless reasons, and that gentrification has scant impact on that constant flow. Those who stay put as a neighborhood grows more affluent often see their quality of life rise and their children enjoy more opportunities. Those who leave rarely do worse.


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