Kids and Urbanization

The question of whether there is space for children in rapidly changing cities was under investigation in two recent studies with somewhat contradictory findings.

2 minute read

August 5, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Map Kid

Yurchyks / Shutterstock

An article published by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University shares news of a new study by University of Texas at Austin Assistant Professor Jake Wegmann, published in the journal Cities.

Unless cities invest in children, Wegmann argues in a new article published in the journal Cities, they risk limiting their potential as sites of upward mobility. And given the greater diversity of children than the population overall, they risk doing so at the cost of historically marginalized populations.

The housing growth of booming cities like Phoenix and Houston are mostly adding housing for childless young adults, according to Wegmann. The study actually investigates the cities of Austin, Portland, and Denver, however, finding that children are declining as a share of the total population in the urban core of these cities.

Gentrifying neighborhoods in those cities lost children between 2000 and 2012-2016, with the greatest losses in census tracts right in the middle of gentrifying. That occurred even as they gained population. Still, the cities managed to offset some of those losses but that was mostly because of growth in tracts with "recently-built large, master-planned communities on either greenfield sites or redeveloped brownfields within the city limits." Those opportunities, cautions Wegmann, are probably nearing the end of their development. 

The Kinder Institute article has more on the findings of the study, and the consequences of the findings.

Another article by Kriston Capps, written for CityLab, shares news of a study by researchers at New York University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

That study "used Medicaid records to track the paths of children living in New York City from January 2009 to December 2015," explains Capps, finding that the majority of low-income children living in gentrifying neighborhoods were not more likely to leave those neighborhoods than they would have been in other neighborhoods. While low-income kids tend to move a lot, they aren't more likely to move because they live in a gentrifying neighborhood.

That finding "contradicts the most upsetting (and prevailing) theories about gentrification: Namely, that the original residents of a neighborhood, especially the most vulnerable ones, are forced out when more affluent residents arrive," writes Capps.

The article includes a lot more discussion about the consequences of the findings (with a lot of caveats) and a discussion of the usefulness of the methodology used in the study.

Thursday, August 1, 2019 in Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research: The Urban Edge

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