How 'Hipster Economics' Romanticizes Blight and Compounds Inequality
Sarah Kendzior begins a scathing critique of "hipster economics" by citing the example of a public art project in Philadelphia, funded by the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak, which blocks the views of train readers as they pass through impoverished neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. "Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised. This is hipster economics," writes Kendzior.
The article addresses directly many of the common arguments used to defend the effects of gentrification. "Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it 'cleaned up the neighbourhood'. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood - poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services - did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location."
Where poverty goes when its priced out of cities—namely, suburbs—makes it all the less likely to addressed in the future, says Kendzior. "There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them. This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked."