Gentrification with a white picket fence: neighborhood upgrading in US inner suburbs, 1980-2015

Authors: Nicholas Finio*, University of Maryland
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Quantitative Methods, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Gentrification, Suburbs, Urban Planning, Quantitative Methods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ellen and Ding (2016) noted that “rigorous research on the extent, causes, and consequences of gentrification remains rare.” Gentrification is understood to be the process by which middle class families move into urban areas, causing an increase in property values, and displacement of other groups (Lees et al. 2008). This focus on urban areas in gentrification research has yielded focus on neighborhoods within central cities, while ignoring inner suburbs not within those jurisdictions. We argue that gentrification is a process of neighborhood change which can occur in any established neighborhood. We aim to identify trajectories of suburban gentrification in the 25 largest US metropolitan areas from 1980-2015 at the census tract level.

Accessible inner ring suburbs in metropolitan areas like Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Chicago have experienced neighborhood change that meets most qualifications for gentrification: increasing home prices, changing demographics, upgrading education credentials, and increasing incomes. Many of these neighborhoods are lower density suburbs, not the traditional, revitalizing urban core areas associated with the “back-to-the city movement” (Smith, 1979).

We first limit our dataset to inner ring suburbs based on established methodology (Hanlon & Vicino, 2008), then utilize an unsupervised machine learning algorithm known as affinity propagation to identify trajectories of gentrification via four variables: race, income, home prices, and education. We conclude that after a slow start in the 20th century inner-suburban gentrification has dramatically accelerated in certain metropolitan areas in the 21st, particularly in neighborhoods with rapid education credential increases.

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