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.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article.