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Deindustrialization, employment dynamics, and long-term neighborhood change: Buffalo, NY 1940 to 2017

Authors: Abigail Cooke*, University At Buffalo, Dylan Connor, Arizona State University, Sijiao Xie, Arizona State University
Topics: Economic Geography, Population Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: deindustrialization, neighborhood change, employment dynamics, inequality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

How has the changing structure of the economy affected neighborhoods over the long-term? While the decline of industrial employment and the rise of white-collar and service work are linked to growing inequality and income segregation (Reardon and Bischoff, 2011), there have been few systematic examinations of how industrial change relates to long-term neighborhood development. The absence of such work partly reflects the general absence of longitudinal neighborhood data over long periods of time. We provide new insight on this issue by constructing such data for Buffalo, NY -- once a leading industrial city -- running from 1940 to the present-day. Buffalo is a compelling case from which to examine long-term neighborhood change. While many American cities experienced population decline in the second half of the twentieth century, decline in Buffalo was particularly pronounced. From 1940 to 2019, Buffalo fell from being the 14th to the 83rd most populated city in the United States. While `White flight` suburbanization and rising racial segregation feature heavily in explaining the historical decline of American cities, institutional (e.g., hospitals and universities) and urban waterfront redevelopment projects have been credited with the recent `revitalization` and/or `gentrification` of cities such as Buffalo. There have, however, been few systematic examinations of how changes in the structure of the economy play out neighborhood-by-neighborhood over long time periods. By integrating census data from 1940 to 2017, we track demographic and employment characteristics across consistent fine-grained neighborhood units. References Reardon & Bischoff (2011). Income inequality and income segregation. AJS, 116(4), 1092-1153.

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