The Economist: Can gentrification be a force for positive social change?

The Economist, August 2, 2019: Can gentrification be a force for positive social change?

In April, a Metro PCS mobile phone shop at the corner of 7th Street and Florida Avenue in the Shaw district of Washington, DC, briefly silenced its speakers. For 24 years, the shop, which also sells music CDs, had played go-go music, a kind of funk indigenous to the city, to passers-by. Some would stop to bop. But, according to the store owner, a resident of a new nearby luxury apartment complained about the noise—and his corporate overseers turned the volume down.

The incident amplified a rumbling debate over the impact of gentrification in a city that has seen rapid economic and demographic change—according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the most widespread gentrification of any major metro area in the country. A three-bedroom house around the corner from the Metro PCS sold for $345,000 in 2004 and resold for $835,116 in 2017. The property is advertised as perfect for a “group house of young professionals.”

Gentrification is usually thought of as a positive for cities as a whole, but a problem for longer-term residents of gentrifying areas: they are displaced by higher rents or increasingly alienated from their changing community. A new paper by David Reed and Quentin Brummet, economists, suggests that the benefits of gentrification may be more widespread, and the harms less common, than usually supposed.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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