Demographics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality

Gentrification is most simply, a change in demographics. Gentrification describes the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture, all of which are caused by demographic changes. With an influx of wealthier individuals, the overall living expenses of the neighborhood increase. Rents and taxes increase as property becomes more valuable. There is some evidence that suggests that the original homeowners who are unable to afford the rising living expenses are purposively pushed out of their homes in order to make housing available to the gentrifiers. Typically, an increase in median income, a decline in the proportion of racial minorities, and a reduction in household size, as young singles and couples replace low-income families occurs when gentrification occurs in a neighborhood.[1] An increase in median income also means that various businesses and shops will open in the area to cater to the new, wealthier residents. These shops are often out of the price range of the original residents and can replace business’ that were a part of the original community. This can cause tensions in the community because the very culture of the neighbor begins to change. The original residents may feel like they no longer belong in their community, due to these changes and often, they feel powerless to stop them.

demogrpahics

According to Powell and Spencer, gentrification has a clear racial component, because wealthy, white individuals replace lower-income minorities. This homogenization of the neighborhood may cause the loss of the community’s unique culture and the disruption of the lifestyle that the residents are accustomed too. This study also found that “[W]hites also exhibit a sense of entitlement in the areas that they gentrify, pushing through an agenda that marginalizes current residents. Similar findings were observed in the study “The Politics of Revitalization in Gentrifying Neighborhoods: The Case of Boston’s South End.” The original South End residents wished to have changes made during the gentrification process that improved their standard of living and helped provide benefits to all members of the community, not just the new, wealthy gentifiers.

Boston_vacancies

The original residents felt like they were unable to prevent changes they disagreed with in their community because they did not have the support of the local government, which backed the gentifiers or the host of other resources that the wealthy, better-educated gentifiers had access too. Compromise was slow and difficult to achieve. Severe factions formed within the community, and each side ultimately had to learn sacrifice their wants in exchange for stability in the neighborhood.

Gentrification is a complex process with various results and consequences, but its most basic issue is that of demographics. The changing demographics create tensions within the community, which are difficult to reconcile because they cover such a broad spectrum on income levels. Balancing the wants, desires and needs of various groups of people from different social, economic and political groups can be extremely challenging.


[1] Grant, Benjamin . PBS.org, “What is Gentrification .” Accessed March 17, 2014.

Sources:

Auger , Deborah . “The Politics of Revitalization in Gentrifying Neighborhoods The Case of Boston’s South End.“ Journal of the American Planning Association. no. 4 (1979): 525-522.

Powell, John A.  and Marguerite L. Spencer. “Giving Them the Old One-Two: Gentrification and the K.O. of Impoverished Urban Dwellers of Color.” Howard L.J. 433 (2002)

 Freeman, Lance, and Braconi Frank . “Gentrification and Displacement New York City in the 1990s.”Journal of the American Planning Association. no. 1 (2004): 39-52.J. Peter Byrne, Two Cheers for Gentrification, 46 How. L.J. 405 (2003).

Grant, Benjamin . PBS.org, “What is Gentrification .” Accessed March 17, 2014.

Wyly, Elvin, and Daniel Hammel. “Gentrification, segregation, and discrimination in the American urban system.“ Environment and Planning . (2004): 1215-1241.

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