Richard Florida on the Perils of Gentrification

Florida discusses a recent study that emphasizes how new the back-to-the-city movement is, how white it is, and what that means for the people it pushes out.

October 8, 2016, 9:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Yuppies Out

John M / Flickr

By now it's obvious even to those outside the urbanist community that America's cities are roaring back. Richard Florida writes, "A new study by my University of Toronto colleague Nathaniel Baum-Snow and Daniel Hartley of the Federal Reserve of Chicago takes the deepest dive into this issue yet, tracing the back-to-the-city movement across U.S. cities and metros." 

For one thing, the study finds that the current urban renaissance only really began around 2000. "In fact, during [the time between 1980 and 2000], both affluent and less affluent residents continued to leave cities, including educated and working class whites. This dynamic only began to change sharply after 2000, when Americans began flowing back to urban centers."

This is a win-win for the well-off white people who make up the bulk of those moving back. "Re-urbanization has enabled affluent whites to simultaneously reduce their commutes, locate in closer proximity to higher paying economic opportunities, and to have privileged access to the amenities that come along with urban living."

Florida emphasizes that central areas, at least, still don't match suburbs after decades of white flight. "Still, even with this back-to-the-city incursion of the educated and affluent, urban neighborhoods remain less affluent and less white than the suburbs."

On displacement, he writes, "This outflow of the less affluent is especially troubling because urban centers offer both better job opportunities and greater levels of the kinds of amenities that can help boost their wages and increase their prospects of economic mobility." In other words, the "outer cities" of the future might be even worse off than the inner cities of decades past. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016 in CityLab

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