Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gentrification: Polish grandmothers, hipster grandkids

Looking at maps of Chicago, I first noticed the regularities that this series of posts explores. The 2000's saw a big influx of well-to-do young professionals to inner city Chicago: 9,500 moved to a single census block (CT3301; Central Station). It's not a homogeneous area by any stretch - whites make up just 51% of CT3301. But it marks a departure from the 1950-1990 megatrend of white flight to the suburbs.

Whites and Asians are flocking to the neighborhoods directly around the Loop, leading to population growth in excess of 30% in every census tract from Cermak to Ontario, with several tracts more than tripling in population; but the black population is falling in tracts where it was previously large.

Outside of downtown, population growth is mixed, except in the exurbs, which grew rapidly - Kendall County doubled in population. The overall population growth can be seen in Figure 2, with an inset to highlight changes in the inner city.

Chicago's artists & hipsters tend to be the first wave of gentrification. They don't have kids or money, and are comfortable mixing into a majority black or Hispanic neighborhood. Whether upgrading occurs from within (the young college-educated poor quickly get good jobs) or without (whites with a little more money want to live in a cool, artsy neighborhood), hip neighborhoods become trendy and then affluent. Rents rise.

So young whites are moving out along Milwaukee Ave into Hispanic neighborhoods, and displacing pockets of black residence on the north side. Some of these neighborhoods show overall population growth - Wicker Park, for instance - but others are shrinking as they gentrify.

Rogers Park (CT106 & CT10702) has 20% more whites, but 30% fewer blacks & Hispanics than it did 10 years ago. The population has declined overall by some 18%. Is that a displacement story? Normally, displacement will occur as vacancies get filled up & rents rise. A population fall could accompany displacement if the new residents are single adults replacing families, which is conceivable. But vacancy rates have also risen in Rogers Park, as seen in Figure 3, as they have in most of Chicago. So it doesn't seem like people are being forced out.

By contrast, along Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, East Ukrainian Village, and Pulaski Park, vacancy rates have fallen sharply, bucking the trend. In those tracts, the Hispanic population has dropped by 30 to 60% in the last ten years, and the white population has replaced the departing Hispanics, leaving the total population roughly unchanged. This seems more like classic displacement.

But where are these displaced minorities going? Not to the monolithic minority neighborhoods. Instead, Hispanics are moving out along their "pie slices" (or deep dish pizza slices, in Chicago's case). See Figure 4. Older working-class white neighborhoods in the Northwest are quickly becoming Hispanic. At the same time that young whites are moving into Logan Square, to the tune of an increase of 30%, their parents and grandparents are moving out of Belmont Gardens and Portage Park at a 30% clip. These areas are just a mile apart! The change is happening all along the Northwestern edge of the Hispanic slice: virtually every census tract in the band from North Mayfair to Galewood was between 40% and 80% white in 2000, and lost some 20% of its white population. Hispanics have replaced them, with little change in total population.

What's going on? If young whites don't mind living in Hispanic neighborhoods, why is white flight continuing apace? The shift (or cycle, or dance, as I've called it) is occurring because of a split in the white population. Young whites want to live in the city - really in the city. Older whites are retiring down to the Sun Belt. And middle-aged whites, with kids in school, are heading for the exurbs. The in-between suburb is lost in the mix, with new immigrants getting their crack at the 20th-century version of the American dream.

But what about blacks? Black populations are on the wane on the North Shore - in Rogers Park, as was discussed, but also in Sheridan Park, Cabrini-Green and everywhere in between. They aren't moving out along the North slice: majority-black neighborhoods in Evanston lost some 30% of their black residents, with Hispanics moving in. A few areas in the Southwest, such as Ashburn and Blue Island, are seeing a boost in black residents. And blacks are also moving back into the inner city, for the same reasons that whites are: 2000 blacks moved into the Central Station tract.

But a lot of blacks are simply leaving Cook County: 120,000, or 9% of the 2000 black population. Some are heading for red states in the Sun Belt (Texas gained 600,000 blacks in the last decade). Others are moving to the white suburbs exurbs. A representative census tract might be Glen Ellyn (CT8422). With only 2% of 4,500 residents black, it's not going to account for many of Chicago's displaced blacks. But while the total population was constant, the black population increased by 63% in 10 years; that's something like 50 people - a dozen families, perhaps. In a town, hardly enough to notice.

But check out the counties surrounding Cook County, and how their black populations have changed: excluding Lake County, Indiana (which includes Gary and was already 25% black, and had black growth of some 3,700 people), the suburban counties grew by 57,000 blacks. That's half the number that Cook County lost. Since the changes are so drastic - an eightfold increase in one case - the growth is clearly due to movement, not reproductive growth.

Conclusion. Working with data of this nature, it's impossible to distinguish who's who. I've used heuristics ('hipsters', 'Hispanic families') to give a face to some of the statistics, but I could be wrong, and I'm obviously oversimplifying. Obviously, an unemployed black on Section-8 displaced by rising rents is unlikely to move to Naperville. But what the broad-strokes picture looks like is that whites and blacks are very similar. Some of them want to head out of their traditional neighborhoods into the erstwhile countryside (don't be fooled: those picturesque farms won't last) or the Sun Belt while others move closer to downtown for the dynamism of the city. The stunning growth of Chicago's Hispanic population (+200,000) partially covers the departure of 400,000 blacks and whites from Cook County, and leaves Jane Jacobs' "great blight of dullness" for a new generation of immigrants to discover.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gentrification: A new hypothesis.

One of the least expected major trends of the last twenty years has been gentrification: old industrial zones in major cities have experienced a massive influx of young, educated-class residents, often raising rents and displacing black or Hispanic predecessors. This process is well-understood.

What is not as well known is where the displaced people go. While this isn't evidence, I noticed a trend in Census data from Chicago, and confirmed that similar trends exist in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. These cities are all dynamic and desirable, but only Washington has seen a large degree of overall population growth. I also found the same pattern in Rochester, New York, which is losing population.

Rochester is a great example of the archetypal American city. There's a "Center City" mostly surrounded by poor black & Hispanic neighborhoods, which are organized like slices of pie, each slice spreading outward toward the suburbs. Rochester, like most American cities, has an important exception: a wealthier, majority-white slice that preserves an old-fashioned urban lifestyle for whites who don't want to go suburban.

Figure 1 shows my hypothesis in the case of Rochester: that urban gentrification has been part of an elaborate cyclical dance which has young whites moving into run-down inner city neighborhoods, blacks moving into the next line of suburbs, and white families moving further out, into the exurbs. Each of these movements makes space for another, and none of them is complete and utter. Instead, most of the neighborhoods which take part in the dance become more integrated in the process.

Census data is shown by census tracts and in colors by race: blue is for Blacks, green is for Whites, orange is for Hispanics. In my analysis, I'll leave aside Hispanics (and Asians, in red), since their population is growing much faster than the U.S. average, making them more of a special case. Figure 1 shows Rochester with its tracts displayed by racial majority.

Tune in next time for city studies in support of this hypothesis.

Matt hearts Mitt

Matt Drudge wants Mitt Romney to beat Rick Santorum. I can't blame him - Santorum makes me cringe a little, too - but I don't use seedy, suggestive headlines to try to swing elections.

Sometimes, when Drudge is working on some breaking story - usually a MSM news article that he's gotten wind of before its release - he'll splash a big headline with a tagline like 'details to follow'. He did that this morning, as Michigander and Arizonan Republicans went to the polls. The splash read:
With no link, no details, and no explanation, it was just innuendo, the suggestion that something new had occurred, and Santorum would have hell to pay. But it wasn't news.

As his later-in-the-day explanation detailed, the "story" was 3-year-old audio from a speech Santorum gave at Ave Maria University in Florida. The talk was spiritual in content (Satan as a real personality, with real malice, and real power), a bit jingoistic, and quite direct, scorching 'mainline Protestants' as having left the fold of orthodox Christianity.

That's not campaign fare, and it has a place in the public eye. Perhaps an election-morn "oppo dump" by the Romney camp is to blame for the timing of the revelation. Still, Drudge was clearly complicit: publishing a headline linking a candidate to Satan without a story to explain.

We'll see tonight whether the hatchet job was enough to put Romney over the top in one of these two states that should have been easy wins for the Front Runner.

Update: There was no primary election today in Michigan and Arizona.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tax & Spend Obama

A lot of Democrats I talk to are convinced that Obama is fiscally responsible, not your grandpa's tax-and-spend Democrat! After all, he wants to raise taxes, and Republicans won't let him, and how can you close a budget gap without raising taxes?

If you want to continue to fall into that category, you should avoid reading Obama's new budget proposal. The Washington Post has the goods:
The president’s outlook for debt reduction has deteriorated markedly since September, when Obama told Congress that his proposals would hold annual deficits well under $600 billion after next year and permit the debt held by outside investors to rise to $17.7 trillion by 2021, or 73 percent of the overall economy. The new 10-year blueprint shows annual deficits exceeding $600 billion every year except 2018. And the portion of the debt held by outside investors would grow to $18.7 trillion by 2021, or 76.5 percent of the economy — a full $1 trillion higher.
So the president is not keeping his promises. But what exactly is he proposing?
President Obama on Monday unveiled a $3.8 trillion spending plan... Obama also seeks taxes by nearly $2 trillion over the next decade, primarily for corporations, hedge fund managers and high-income households.
So he wants $2 trillion more in taxes and $3.8 trillion more in spending. That's not how I would go about shrinking the national debt, but hey, I don't know any fancy accounting tricks.

At best, one can read this as an intellectually unserious campaign gimmick, or a terrible first bid in a long-term negotiation with Republicans, so Obama can talk later about how imaginary spending he has "cut" once he agrees to some middle ground. So that's it: the best you can say is that the president is lying to us now (about how much he wants to spend) so that he can more effectively lie to us later (about how much spending he has cut).

Valentine's Day Tomorrow

It's a prisoners' dilemma, according to XKCD. My suggestion? If you have a sweetheart, make a plan together to show love to somebody else (an aging family member, a single friend who just got dumped, the homeless in your city, etc.).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Road Projects

Rep. John Olver (D-MA) knows this is unseemly. "I am concerned about appearances", he says. After all, he earmarked $5,100,000 for rebuilding a section of West Street, and making a shiny new intersection at Bay Road, in South Amherst. I've driven through construction there several times; they're completely rebuilding the roadway, realigning it as well as repaving.

Rep. Olver is profiled by WaPo along with 32 other legislators who have used their earmarking power to steer money to projects that directly improve the value of their personal property. This is legal and "ethical" according to Congress.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) used $21,500,000 in taxpayer funds to build a bridge from 160 acres of undeveloped land he owns to a popular Nevada resort town. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) was the biggest spender, lavishing $100,000,000 on revitalization of downtown Tuscaloosa, where he owns an office building. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who promised a new era of transparency in government, got $50,000,000 for a new light rail line that could raise property values in an area where her husband owns a building.

Can some of these projects be defended on their merits? No doubt. If representatives really "represent" their areas, shouldn't they also benefit when public works leads to general betterment? Of course.

But why is money being earmarked in Washington? While Pelosi or Olver might know their districts very well, the rest of their chamber does not, and is not prepared to judge which streets in Amherst need to be rebuilt, or which areas of San Francisco are in need of public transit. Each earmark depends on the competence and honesty of a single individual! This is an abrogation of the spirit of our Constitution, a system under which power is diversified in many hands, decisions must be reached by a majority, and no one individual can determine public spending. In order to best direct fundamentally local projects like infrastructure, local bodies should be set up with the purpose of being locally knowledgeable and accountable, and making the necessary tradeoffs between competing local priorities. The differing interests of those on such local boards will better guarantee that each community is well served.

These bodies or boards, of course, already exist. Local government in the U.S. is vested with great power (such as in education), and makes most of the infrastructure funding decisions. For the Federal government to go over their heads and shower a few chosen projects with enormous funding is a shame, and must be stopped.

If you live in one of the 33 constituencies listed in the Post, I encourage you to write your representative. Tell him that you elected him to represent the district, not to govern it. Ask him to leave government to the properly elected authorities. Request that all future funds directed to the district be given as block grants to the relevant localities (or state). Tell him that you trust the institutions of government more so than you trust his personal judgment on how to direct your tax money on a micro level.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vince Wilfork, MVP

The Patriots are using one elite player to anchor an entire phase of their game: Vince Wilfork on defense. In a week of terrible, horrible, no-good, idiotic articles ostensibly being "written" about "sports", Chris Brown's analysis of the Patriots' rube-goldbergian defense stands out.
So what has Belichick done with his oddball assortment of defenders, anchored by Vince Wilfork? Did he choose 3-4 or 4-3? One-gap or 2-gap? Traditionally a 3-4 coach, Belichick ran this system even when almost every other NFL team was mimicking the 4-3 defenses popular in Dallas and Tampa. But Belichick now finds himself in a time when, by desire and necessity, he has largely moved to a four-man line approach. And yet, in typical Belichick fashion, he has chosen not to rely solely on the 4-3 or 3-4 or a 1-gap or 2-gap approach. Nor does he just alternate between 3-4 and 4-3 looks from play to play. Instead, Belichick has essentially combined both approaches in the same play. How?
Read the article to learn something (or just to sound smug and knowledgeable at your Super Bowl party). Go Patriots!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Bubbly Class

I haven't read Coming Apart yet, but this chapter makes me want to. Take the quiz, and find out how much of an upper-middle-class bubble you live in. I scored ~22 out of a possible 100; pretty enbubbled.

Hat tip to Cafe Mom.

Santorum Plays Cards

This is a new advertisement for Rick Santorum (hat tip to Jennifer Rubin). Rubin calls it "boffo" - I think the fare is pretty predictable... but the suspense is great. And *** SPOILER ALERT *** the ad really gets its strength because the face you most expect to see doesn't show up. But you're expecting to see it - so you've actually convinced yourself that it belongs in that lineup as well!