Monday, March 12, 2012

Gentrification: Trading Towns.

Following up on the previous posts on Rochester, NY, and Chicago, I expound on a new hypothesis about gentrification. To restate it: young, affluent professionals are moving into inner cities, eschewing the suburbs where they grew up. The centrifugal price pressure pushes urban racial minorities further from the city center, out to the near suburbs. Working-class whites leave the near suburbs for further suburbs or warmer climes.

Data & maps are from the 2010 Census, via NYTimes.

In Chicago, we saw that while the Hispanic population grew rapidly, the black population of the whole Chicago area shrank - with many blacks moving out of state to the Sun Belt. Massachusetts is a little different: the state is heavily white (74%), with a strong Hispanic minority (10%) and about equal numbers of blacks (6%) and Asians(5%). With overall state growth of 3.1% in the 00's, only the white population shrank (-4%), and the black (+23%), Hispanic (+46%), and Asian (+47%) all grew rapidly.

As can be seen in Figure 5, Boston is less segregated (and much smaller) than Chicago. It's also broken up by rivers, parks, and hills, tightly defining many city neighborhoods.

In Boston, the last decade continued the strong urbanization and gentrification trends of the 1990's. Boston's Fenway, Lower Roxbury, Seaport, Leather District, and Downtown neighborhoods have all seen population growth of more than 20% in ten years, with whites accounting for most of the growth. In previously non-white neighborhoods stretching from Dudley Town Common to the Southwest Corridor, the white population more than doubled - although whites remain a small minority there. The only group of census blocks in Eastern Massachusetts with falling vacancy rates in the 00's was centered around these dynamic areas, as seen in Figure 6.

More powerfully, whites (including your humble blogger) gentrified neighborhoods like the South End, Mission Hill, and Jamaica Plain - all of which were a bit above or below 50% white in 2010. In these places, the large growth in whites was accompanied by a drop in the Hispanic or black population. At the same time that they were leaving the South End and JP - some 25% of Hispanics left JP between 2000 and 2010 - the Hispanic population of Boston's large black neighborhoods exploded. Figure 7 tells the story. Now, Roxbury, Grove Hall, and northwestern Dorchester are at least 20% Hispanic. Even Mattapan, the remaining "monolithic" black neighborhood in Boston, has about 10% Hispanics in every census tract.

The growing Hispanic population has also moved southwest from Jamaica Plain to Hyde Park and West Roxbury. Both have small, but rapidly growing, Hispanic minorities.

What happened to black Roxbury & Dorchester as Hispanics have moved in? In the middle-class neighborhood along Seaver Street, vacancies have decreased and more housing has been built. South of Dudley Square, by contrast, a modest decline in the black population has made room for the new Hispanic residences. As in Chicago, we want to know where the blacks have gone. Unlike in Illinois, we won't conclude migration out of state - the black population grew 23% in 10 years. In Boston's Suffolk county, the black population dropped by 1%. Counterbalancing the population losses in Roxbury and Mattapan were gains in almost every other area in the city. Blacks (perhaps originating as out-of-state college students, like most migrants to Boston) have increased their share of young, hip areas such as the North End and Allston. More likely destinations for local blacks leaving Roxbury are predominantly white and Vietnamese neighborhoods in eastern Dorchester, and multiracial Hyde Park and West Roxbury neighborhoods.

Blacks are also leaving Boston for the suburbs. The other counties of Eastern Mass have seen their black populations grow between 36% (Essex) and 80% (Norfolk). In particular, Figure 8 highlights the town of Randolph, a middle-class suburb which is rapidly becoming black and Asian. (One third of Randolph's white residents departed between 2000 and 2010.) The city of Brockton, a bit further south, doubled its black population in the decade as well, with large Cape Verdean and Angolan populations.

As in Chicago, the old working-class white city districts are hemorrhaging population. People who moved to Port Norfolk (lost 16% of whites) or Readville (-34%) in the 1970's are retiring to Florida or Arizona; young white singles don't want to live in a boring community miles from the city, and young white families won't replace them until the schools improve.

In conclusion, Boston's southwest quadrant is a poster child for my hypothesis: a yuppy who grew up in Milton moves in to Jamaica Plain; Dominicans move from Jamaica Plain to Grove Hall; an unemployed black moves from Grove Hall to Mattapan; an upwardly mobile black family moves from Mattapan to Milton.

To my many Bostonian readers: I'm interested in your perspectives or experiences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A well-conceived hypothesis that goes beyond giving attention to the areas being gentrified, closing the loop to explain all of the associated migrations. Your statement near the end about abandonment of lower middle class white areas far from the city center is the most insightful, I think.

The question of redistribution should be incorporated into a larger context of regional population shift, not only in terms of immigrant minorities, but also in terms of shift between economic and household size classes. Examples are economic progress and decline in manufacturing leading to a smaller lower-middle-class and a larger upper-middle-class; and a growth in the population of adults-who-don't-yet-have-children. Those shifts are drivers of overall investment in improving neighborhoods and in expanding hip neighborhoods. Given those drivers, the question of distribution (redistribution) becomes better bounded.