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When 'Gentrification' Is Really a Shift in Racial Boundaries

Jonathan Tannen has been tracking how neighborhoods change in the 100 largest U.S. cities, and what he discovered surprised him.
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The diverse coalition of delegates who attended the Democratic National Convention last week may not have realized they were visiting one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. But even as a child growing up in a gentrifying, white enclave of West Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannen knew that people with his skin color rarely crossed 49th Street. It was the invisible line that separated his neighborhood from majority-black areas in the 1980s.

Two decades later, Tannen would spend six years at Princeton University working on a dissertation to quantify what he’d long suspected: that the invisible lines of segregation can be as real and hard as the bricks of any rowhome.