When higher-income people start moving into lower-income neighborhoods, how does that affect longtime residents? Recently, three studies have pointed toward an answer that’s different from the most common one.
First, a study from NYU’s Furman Center suggests that residents of public housing in wealthier and gentrifying neighborhoods make more money, live with less violence, and have better educational options for their children, despite also facing some challenges. Second, a study from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank finds that there has been much less displacement of existing residents from gentrifying neighborhoods than is commonly feared—and that those who do leave aren’t necessarily more likely to move to lower-income neighborhoods. And finally, a Columbia University study on gentrification in London also failed to find evidence of widespread departures in neighborhoods with rising average incomes.
Together, these stories suggest that while gentrification can cause social discord and make residents anxious about the future, it neither produces measurably more departures from neighborhoods, nor does it usually make residents economically worse off. If anything, residents of improving neighborhoods see greater wealth (as measured by their credit scores) and higher incomes ($3,000 to $4,500 higher for residents of public housing in New York City).