January 19, 2017
Understanding the causes of recent gentrification can help guide analyses of and responses to neighborhood change, according to a report by Jackelyn Hwang and Jeffrey Lin in Cityscape. The authors define gentrification “as the process in which neighborhoods with low SES [socioeconomic status] experience increased investment and an influx of new residents of higher SES.” The authors document changes in the prevalence of gentrification in downtowns and outlying neighborhoods of small and large metropolitan areas using an SES index that compares census tracts in metropolitan areas by the percentage of residents over age 25 with at least a college degree and average household income. Hwang and Lin identify causal factors of this phenomenon by reviewing the available literature. Their review also reveals additional opportunities for research to expand the scope of factors that contribute to gentrification. But some causal factors of gentrification may be difficult to identify, such as small changes in development activity leading to a change in neighborhood composition and amenities, which could create a “self-sustaining cycle for gentrification in gentrifying neighborhoods.”
- Between 1970 and 2010, the number of big cities that contain at least one downtown neighborhood experiencing gentrification increased from 25 percent to more than 50 percent. In small metropolitan areas, this figure increased from almost 0 percent to 15 percent. The share of downtown tracts that were gentrifying rose sharply between 2000 and 2010.
- Recent literature indicates that changes in access to jobs and amenities are causal factors for gentrification. While the literature suggests mixed evidence for the effect that job access has on gentrification, there is more of a consensus that changes in amenities play an important role in understanding gentrification.
- Evidence fails to demonstrate the causal effects of public policies; new technologies; race, ethnicity, and diversity; family structure and demography; housing finance; and housing supply on gentrification.