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The Closest Look Yet at Gentrification and Displacement

A new study finds that gentrification improves Philadelphia neighborhoods, but its ripple effects hurt the most vulnerable.
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There is no more hotly debated issue among urbanists than gentrification and displacement. To its opponents, gentrification amounts to the colonization of poor, minority neighborhoods by affluent whites. For others, gentrification is little more than a natural process of neighborhood transformation and change. The reality, however, is that the connection between gentrification and displacement is more complex and nuanced than we like to think. (In fact, I wrote about the complicated link between the two just last month.)

A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia provides important evidence of the pros and cons of gentrification. The study—by Jackelyn Hwang of Princeton University (whose research we’ve covered here before) and Lei Ding and Eileen Divringi of the Federal Reserve—uses new detailed data on the economic condition of residents to provide a closer look at who gentrifies and who gets displaced, as well as the overall effects of gentrification on neighborhoods and residents.