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Study: Urban Renters Move Often, and Voluntarily

The usual narrative of gentrification and displacement often assumes a static population. According to this study, urban renters move around very frequently, and most (but not all) of their moves are voluntary.
October 17, 2017, 6am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Shane Adams

Gentrification can clearly affect urban renters, displacing residents as costs increase. But according to this study published in Urban Affairs Review, the discussion often skips over the fact that these neighborhoods are constantly changing regardless. Joe Cortright writes, "Many of the public discussions of gentrification assume that somehow, in the absence of gentrification, neighborhoods would somehow remain just the same, and that few or no residents would move away."

Using data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics that tracks family moves from 1987 through 2009, Isaac William Martin and Keven Beck found that in their sample, "About 54 percent of all renters moved in the last two years; about 13 percent of all renters reported an involuntary move. That means that about 75 percent of all renter moves were voluntary and about 25 percent of renter moves were involuntary."

"Involuntary" moves, which encompass eviction, health reasons, divorce, joining the armed services, and the like, were statistically higher in neighborhoods experiencing gentrification. However, "homeowners don't seem to be displaced by gentrification and [...] property taxes (and tax breaks for homeowners) don't seem to affect displacement."

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Published on Monday, October 9, 2017 in City Observatory
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