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Racial Justice (Research)

New Report Finds That Gentrification in Transit-Rich Neighborhoods Increases Housing Costs, Endangers Transit Ridership

Maintaining Diversity in America's Transit-Rich NeighborhoodsBOSTON, MA – A new report by the Kitty & Michael Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy at Northeastern University validates concerns that the growing popularity of rail transit can bring undesirable changes to nearby neighborhoods.  “While patterns of neighborhood change varied,” explained lead author Stephanie Pollack, “the most predominant pattern we saw was one in which neighborhood renters are forced to pay more for housing and vehicle ownership becomes more common as neighborhood incomes rise.  If gentrification is defined as a pattern of neighborhood change marked by rising housing costs and incomes, we found evidence of gentrification in the majority of newly transit-served neighborhoods we studied.” The report, Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods: Tools for Equitable Neighborhood Change, includes new research analyzing socioeconomic changes in 42 neighborhoods in 12 metropolitan areas first served by rail transit between 1990 and 2000. Co-author Barry Bluestone, a housing expert and Dean of Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, noted that the report’s findings confirm other research that shows neighborhoods with a large number of renters are more susceptible to gentrification. “In the neighborhoods where new light rail stations were built, almost every aspect of neighborhood change was magnified,” Bluestone explained.  “Rents rose faster; owner-occupied units became more prevalent.  Before transit was built, these neighborhoods had been dominated by low-income, renter households.”  Bluestone also noted that, as calculated in the report, slightly over half of all rental housing units in the United States are located in the relatively small number of metropolitan areas served by rail transit. Pollack, a transportation policy expert and associate director of the Dukakis Center, similarly noted that the 37 metropolitan regions with rail transit systems “constitute just over 10 percent of all U.S. metropolitan areas, but are both economically important and extraordinarily diverse.”  According to the report, nearly half of all Americans and more than two thirds of all U.S. workers live in metropolitan areas served by rail transit.  These regions are home to over half of all blacks, 60 percent of all Hispanics and 70 percent of all immigrants in the U.S.

Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap

Patrick Sharkey

One of the most powerful findings of the Economic Mobility Project’s research to date has been the striking mobility gap between blacks and whites in America. This report explores one potentially important factor behind the black-white mobility gap: the impact of neighborhood poverty rates experienced during childhood. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the report focuses on blacks and whites born from 1955-1970, following them from childhood into adulthood. The first section of the paper investigates relative intergenerational mobility; whether neighborhood poverty in childhood impacts the ability of both black and white adults to move up or down the income ladder relative to the position their parents held. The second section investigates whether changes in neighborhood poverty rates experienced by black children affected their adult incomes, earnings, and wealth. Finally, the third section provides an overview of the possible policy implications of the results.


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