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A Measure of Gentrification for Use in Longitudinal Public Health Studies in the US

Photo of cars on a street in Kensington, Philadelphia

Methods Brief
August 2019

What is Gentrification?

Gentrification is a commonly discussed and often politically charged topic in the media and among residents. But what does gentrification mean and how do we measure it? At its core, gentrification is one type of neighborhood change process. While there is no universally accepted definition, common themes include reinvestment in a neighborhood after a period of decline and population compositional changes.

The UHC gentrification working groups conceptualizes gentrification as a neighborhood change process that occurs over a period of time, measurable in three predominant ways:

  1. compositional demographic shifts in a neighborhood
  2. increased property values and
  3. physical signs of reinvestment, including improved streetscape appearance, beautification, access to healthy food and physical resources, and/or signs of housing investment

The gentrification process occurs in previously low-income areas of a city, which had inadequate access to health-promoting resources and poor housing infrastructure. Displacement is a potential, but not inevitable, outcome of gentrification.

References

  • Bostic, Raphael W., and Richard W. Martin. "Black home-owners as a gentrifying force? Neighbourhood dynamics in the context of minority home-ownership." Urban Studies 40.12 (2003): 2427-2449.
  • Ding, Lei, Jackelyn Hwang, and Eileen Divringi. "Gentrification and residential mobility in Philadelphia." Regional science and urban economics 61 (2016): 38-51.
  • Freeman, Lance. "Displacement or succession? Residential mobility in gentrifying neighborhoods." Urban Affairs Review 40.4 (2005): 463-491.
  • Glass, Ruth. "Aspects of change." The gentrification debates: A reader (1964): 19-30.
  • Hammel, Daniel J., and Elvin K. Wyly. "A model for identifying gentrified areas with census data." Urban Geography 17.3 (1996): 248-268.