Does an Increase in White Residents Equal Gentrification?

Matt Bevilacqua looks at the real story behind headlines making news this week regarding the "fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods in the United States."
June 13, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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This week, The Atlantic Cities and The Washington Post both picked up on a story featured in the blog of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a non-profit think tank dedicated to education policy. The post, written by Mike Petrilli, the organization's executive vice president, "culled Census data and made a list of the top 25 ZIP codes in the country that have seen the largest increases in the percentage of white residents between 2000 and 2010" to develop a chart of what he called "the fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods in the United States."

Although the data gathered by Petrilli - "who readily admits that his expertise lies in education, not demographics" - includes some significant information, Bevilacqua rightly points out that the post's core conceit, that "more white people automatically translates to gentrification," deserves to be challenged.  

As Bevilacqua explains, "Undoubtedly, race and class in the U.S. are linked in a complex and pretty irretrievable way. Nonetheless, they're not one in the same. Washington, D.C. has seen an influx of middle-class black residents whose presence has changed the economic landscape of certain traditionally low-income neighborhoods - or, to put it another way, black gentrifiers. As the New York Times reported several years ago, this has even happend [sic] in Harlem."

"Which isn't to say that gentrification is wholly about socioeconomic status to the exclusion of race, either. (For an interesting take on just how central race is to the topic, check this March 2011 blog post by Kenyon Farrow.) It's just that any responsible discussion on something as divisive and widely misunderstood as gentrification shouldn't fail to take a comprehensive look at the issue."



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Published on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 in Next American City
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