Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Consequences of Gentrification

Gentrification has some positive affects, such as reducing the concentration of poverty. At the same time, sociologists have been concerned about gentrification because negative consequences often outweigh the positive ones. Gentrification may lead to:

1) a housing crisis for working-class and poor residents
  • caused by rent increases, the disappearance of rental properties, increases in house prices (so that homeowners may not be able to move to other houses in the community).
  • leading to a variety of outcomes: tenant displacement (including through harassment by building owners wishing to sell or convert to condos), temporary or permanent homelessness, personal suffering from displacement, and destruction of communities.
2) increased inequality, class segregation, and racial segregation within the community:
  • In Ward 6, we have a sense that many working class or poor residents have left. Since these people have left the ward, we usually do not know what has happened to them. Are they better off? Are they worse off? It is highly possible that gentrification did not help them.
  • What has happened to the residents who have remained? To understand some of this, let's compare the richest and poorest census tracts in Ward 6. Tract 67 is just below Lincoln Park to Pennsylvania Avenue; Tract 71 is east of 11th below Pennsylvania Avenue. These two census tracts are just a couple of blocks away from each other, but on opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. What do we find in the census data?
Poorest by income: Tract 71
Median Household Income: $29,063 (decreased by 10% since 2000)
% change in population, 1980-1990: -12%
% change in population, 1990-2000: -3.5%
Percentage of households making under $30,000: 53%
Percentage of households making over $100,000: 21%

Richest by income: Tract 67
Median Household Income: $135,573 (increased by 37% since 2000)
% change in population, 1980-1990: -7.1%
% change in population, 1990-2000: 1.8%
Percentage of households making under $30,000: 4%
Percentage of households making over $100,000: 66%
  • We do see increased income inequalities. We also see a decreasing population, which continued at least through 2000 in Tract 71. The population numbers are difficult to deal with since we don't know much about the specific people leaving. [I also need to look at other indicators in the future.]
  • While I have talked about the problems with persistent racial discrimination in the housing markets nationwide, class-based discrimination also persists in housing markets and other areas.
Does gentrification necessarily have these negative consequences? What have residents done in other cities to stop these negative consequences? More on this in a future post!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anecdotes and Sociological Research

I removed the personal anecdote from my previous post "Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism? (Response)" because it was against my blog's general strategy: presenting real sociological research and data. Anecdotes can illustrate abstract ideas, but anecdotes can be mobilized to support almost any argument and are not as rigorous as systematic research conducted on numerous cases. I am looking to provide rigorous research, moving beyond the usual journalistic approach that focuses on anecdotes.

Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism? (Response)

Thanks to DCentric for reporting on my blog! I'm glad that some people enjoyed "nerding out." Just wanted to clarify a couple of things regarding my post "Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism?" two weeks ago.

On DCentric, one commenter wrote, "This reporting seems biased. There are a large number of whites moving into mostly black neighborhoods here in DC. I think its more class than race in most cases. People who are educated and can afford it will move to be around other educated neighborhoods. If that excludes blacks, then whose fault is that?"

I'm glad that you brought up class. The study I cited tested for class-based reasons and racist reasons and found that, even when the neighborhood described to the survey respondents (all whites) had all the qualities desired by middle-class people (high-quality schools, increasing property values, and a low crime rate, as well as a location near work), whites still stated that they would not buy a house in the neighborhood if there were more than 15% blacks. When thinking about potential black neighbors, race still mattered significantly no matter the class characteristics of the neighborhood.

Another commenter wrote, "I'm curious to find out the 'other reasons' that whites avoid areas with nontoken percentages of Asians and Latinos, if not race." Thanks for letting me clarify this. The study found that whites primarily chose a house based on the class-based reasons; the racial composition of the neighborhood was not a significant issue when the racial group was Latino or Asian. When thinking about potential Latino or Asian neighbors, race did not significantly matter to whites.

The first commenter brings up another relevant point. This study presents a rather average white person, thus not capturing some whites who seek to live in diverse or majority black neighborhoods. I have to read more about these people. However, sociologists have found that wealthy, educated blacks often live in worse neighborhoods than less wealthy whites. In a previous post "Racial Segregation in DC (continued)," I talked about a study by DC sociologists Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat, who called 921 DC/VA/MD residents of a variety of races and found that blacks were significantly more likely than whites to experience discrimination on the housing market. Their findings support those of a 1998 Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington study, in which the Council sent out pairs of people (one black and one white) to investigate the local housing and mortgage market. According to Squires and his colleagues, "Investigators found that blacks were discriminated against 33% of the time in their efforts to buy homes, 44% of the time when they attempted to rent, and 37% of the times they applied for mortgage loans. Discriminatory practices included racial steering, misrepresentation about the availability of homes, differences in rental rates for the same units and the number of units that were shown, disparities in mortgage interest rates, differential application of particular stands, and others." Therefore, the white nature of "educated neighborhoods" is not purely the result of economic reasons, educational levels, or personal choices.

Also, we should research whether what appears to be a racially integrated neighborhood like that in Ward 6 is really racially integrated, especially in social life. Is the idea that Capitol Hill is racially integrated just a fantasy?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hine Jr High: Development for Whom? (continued)

Liz Harper clarified the issues in her Facebook post: "Among the questions raised (in my mind) - do we want our new public spaces geared toward consumption and retail? Also, must we erase the past?" Thanks, Liz!

P.S. See the original post Hine Jr. High: Development for Whom?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hine Jr. High: Development for Whom?

Hine Jr. High at 8th and Pennsylvania SE is slated for destruction and redevelopment. On Feb. 2nd, ANC 6B is holding a public meeting on the new designs organized by the chosen developer Stanton-EastBanc. From Stanton-EastBanc's website on the Hine project, we can witness some general themes of urban renewal experienced worldwide and across the decades. Among the many interesting aspects of the project description, I have chosen three:
  • Project vision: "When completed, the StantonEastbanc project will feel like a part of the neighborhood that has been there forever."
The new development thus seeks to completely erase the past, erase the fact that Hine Jr. High existed. Hine was combined with Eliot Middle School on 1830 Constitution Ave, thus, as usually happens in urban renewal, the students were sent away from the core to the Eastern border of Ward 6. We could be glad that the students have left behind the dilapidated Hine building. Yet, during urban renewal, according to a fascinating article by sociologist Sharon Zukin, both public and private investment "shows a high degree of selectivity" and gentrification does not counteract economic and racial polarization: "it fails to raise median family income...nor does gentrification always spread beyond a street or neighborhood to an entire census tract." This investment is directed primarily towards middle and upper class residents and often pushes out the poor. Hine suffered from years of lack of investment, as mentioned in a 2005 Post article about a Hine basketball coach: "But the guys from Hine don't complain. Half of their school had no heat this morning, either, and in every gym where they play, a third of the lights are burned out or missing." These kids were poor: "the vast majority of its students come from households with an income of less than $24,600 a year for a family of four, which qualifies 85 percent of them for free breakfast and lunch. Four of every five kids come from across the Anacostia River. Most live with a single parent, says assistant principal Maria Dent, except for those with 'no parental guidance because their parents have been killed'" (2005 Post article).

At the same time, as also acknowledged by the Hine alumni Facebook page (with 539 members), Hine was a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Principal Princess Whitfield turned Hines around in the 1980s, and she was named one of the nation's top 10 educators in the early 1990s. Yet, somehow by 2005, the city had stopped investing in Hine and decided to close it, at least at first to make it into a central school admin building. But there had been investment in the school and the students had excelled! (Another part of the erasing of the past is the school's namesake, Lemon G. Hine, Civil Rights lawyer and politician, but who was he?) The new building will feel like it has been there forever.
  • Project overview: "Continuous retail provides the missing link between Eastern Market Row (7th Street) and Barracks Row (8th Street)."
  • Project vision: "This major community-development project will welcome new residents with a diversity of ages and income levels.
In her Cultures of Cities, Zukin discusses how redevelopment often privatizes public spaces, then creates idealized pseudo-public spaces that are focused on consumption (rather than education, production, or some other activity). Blue Ribbon Hine is being replaced with retail. There will also be two nonprofits in the building, thus reflecting "the continued displacement of manufacturing and the development of the financial and non-profit sectors" in DC and elsewhere. Non-profits are not necessarily more than just another white-collar professional company, rather than providing jobs and services for Ward 6. Will those without incomes, such as our homeless neighbors who have lived in Ward 6 their entire lives, be included in this diversity? I went to the meetings where the visions of the Hine project were presented, but the DC government and the developers did not show much vision and offered only four rather uninspired options.

What could Hine become? This is a topic that I will explore further. For now, I propose rentals for those in the neighborhood, the thousands of interns, the visiting Library of Congress researchers, our fellow citizens who wish to lobby Congress, those visiting their relatives, etc.

I was also wondering what has happened to those who went or might have gone to Hine. How has the destruction of Hine influenced their lives?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism?

Open this map, plug in the 20003 zip code, zoom out a notch or two, and you will see a sea of blue dots (Blacks, each representing 50 people) with some yellow (Hispanic) and red (Asian) dots, with many green dots (Whites) located east of 2nd St, south of H St NE, west of around 15th, and, depending on the street, north of Pennsylvania Ave or the 395. We have some areas of what is called hypersegregation. It is clear that there is racial segregation in Ward 6. People disagree over the causes.

Generally, sociologists study whether people are segregated because of personal choice, economic reasons, or racial discrimination. Economic factors are definitely a big reason, especially when we look at housing costs, but racial discrimination still exists. Let's take a look at sociologists Michael O. Emerson, Karen J. Chai, and George Yancey's "Does Race Matter in Residential Segregation? Exploring the Preferences of White Americans."

In a phone survey, they told respondents to imagine they were house hunting and found the ideal house, which was also affordable and located near work. The sociologists then told them about a randomly generated neighborhood combining different levels of the following characteristics:
  • public school quality (low, medium, high quality)
  • property values (declining, stable, increasing)
  • other houses in the area's values (lower, equal, higher value than the house)
  • crime rate (low, average, high)
  • racial composition (5-100% of either Asians, blacks, or Hispanics)
They asked, Would you buy this house?

Controlling for all sorts of variables, Emerson and his colleagues found that whites are neutral about the likelihood of buying the house if the neighborhood is 10-15% black. Above 15% black, whites say that they would not likely buy the house. They write, "Our findings suggest a low probability of whites moving to neighborhoods with anything but a token black population, even after controlling for the reasons they typically give for avoiding residing with African Americans." The reasons that whites typically give are crime and declining property values. So, even when the neighborhood offered has little crime and good property values, whites still choose not to live in those with 15% or more black residents.

According to another sociologist Camille Charles, "Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all appear to want both meaningful integration and a substantial coethnic presence," while whites exhibit the strongest preference for same-race neighbors. This explains white flight. As whites with a lower preference for black neighbors move out of a neighborhood, more blacks might move in, thus triggering other whites to move. Whites do not have the same preferences in regards to Asians and Hispanics, though all these groups are segregated too. So, whites avoid areas with nontoken percentages of Asians or Hispanics not due to race, but due to other reasons.

Even more disturbingly, whites with children under 18 live in areas with 20% fewer blacks than do the whites without children under 18. Black and white children will find themselves even more segregated from each other than black and white adults are.

Why do whites want to live in white neighborhoods, even when all the reasons they usually give for avoiding blacks are removed (crime and declining property values)? As Camille Charles writes, residential segregation has devastating consequences for all blacks, irrespective of socioeconomic status, and later continues, "Whites use segregation to maintain social distance, and therefore, present-day residential best understood as emanating from structural forces [economic forces] tied to racial prejudice and discrimination that preserve the relative status advantages of whites." Sociologists call this opportunity hoarding.

Is this happening in Ward 6?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What do you think about gentrification here?

Gentrification is definitely happening in Ward 6. Internationally, Ward 6/Capitol Hill is in fact known as "one of the most intensively gentrified neighborhoods in the country" (Wyly and Hammel 2001). What is gentrification?

: convert (a working-class or inner-city district etc.) into an area of middle-class residence. gentrification/gentrifier- Oxford English Dictionary (1993).

gentrify: to convert (an aging area in a city) into a more affluent middle-class neighborhood, as by remodeling dwellings, resulting in increased property values and in displacement of the poor. gentrification - Webster's Dictionary of the American Language (1988).

the space is being transformed for more affluent users. - Hackworth (2002).

The middle class are the gentry. Gentrification is the replacement of one class by another. How does this happen? I just read British geographer Tom Slater's fascinating, eye-opening article "The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research" (2006), which in fact discusses Capitol Hill. According to Slater, it happens when the middle class buys up historic buildings and restores them, while the city sells rental or other buildings (Hines School?) to developers, sells formerly working-class industrial space to developers, and creates policies that lure middle class professionals and foster gentrification.

What's so bad about that? I love my neighborhood and my neighbors. It's great to live in the city. I grew up in the suburbs, which felt deadening to me. Well, the problem is that it is completely natural for me to feel this way, since I am a beneficiary of gentrification or, more correctly, I am a gentrifier. What happens to the non-gentrifiers? What are the consequences? According to Slater, here are some:

  • rent increases and disappearance of rental properties
  • increases in house prices
  • tenant displacement (displacement of the working class and poor), being priced out of the city, being harassed by building owners wishing to sell or convert to condos
  • increased inequality
  • class segregation, the middle class "values the presence of others...but chooses not to interact with them. They are, as it were, much valued as a kind of social wallpaper" (Butler 2003).
  • personal suffering from displacement
  • destruction of communities

Now what do you think about gentrification here?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Racial Segregation in DC (continued)

"Racial segregation is as taken for granted as any feature of urban life in the United States...The fact of severe and persistent racial segregation of housing patterns in metropolitan areas is not contested...," write DC's own sociologists Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat (GWU) in their 2002 article "Experiencing Residential Segregation: A Contemporary Study of Washington, D.C."

As you can see from my previous post (12/31), racial segregation is alive and well in Ward 6. From this map of American Community Survey data (2005-2009), the census tract with over 90% white residents is #66: south of East Capitol, north of Pennsylvania, between Capitol and 8th St SE. The census tracts with over 90% black residents are: 1) #7903: south of Benning, north of C St NE, along the Anacostia, 2) #64: south of M St SW, west of South Capitol, to the Anacostia, and 3) #6002: just north of #64. However, these are just the most extreme cases. (I need to use the real census data, which I will do in the future.)

Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat tested three reasons given for racial segregation. First, some argue that it is a matter of individual choice, most households generally prefer to live in culturally homogeneous neighborhoods. Second, others say it is just economics, racial segregation reflects the financial status of racial groups. Third, another group argues that racial segregation is the result of racial discrimination.

They conducted a telephone survey of 921 adults in DC and nearby MD/VA suburbs in 2001. During the survey, they asked the respondents about their search for their current home, rental or owned. They also collected socioeconomic data about the respondents, including their income, education, age, and so on.

They found that, taking into account the differences that exist between whites and blacks on socioeconomic variables, race continues to play an important role in the experiences of residents within the area's housing market. Controlling for income, education, age, etc., they discovered:
  1. Blacks were about half as likely as whites to obtain their first-choice housing unit.
  2. Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to report that they, or someone they know, have experienced discrimination in their housing search or mortgage financing.
  3. Blacks are significantly less likely than whites to believe the blacks and whites have the same opportunities within the housing market. They found that over 50% of whites believed that whites and blacks, and whites and Hispanics, had the same choices in the housing market. In contrast, 16% of blacks believed that whites and blacks had the same choices, while 21% of blacks believed that whites and Hispanics had the same choices.
In these areas, the data supported the racial discrimination argument. The economic argument was supported when one looked at 1) whether someone used a real estate agent or family/friends as sources of information for their search and 2) level of satisfaction with their home's environment. The individual choice argument was not supported.

Their findings support those of a 1998 Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington study. The Council sent out pairs of people (one black and one white) to investigate the local housing and mortgage market. According to Squires and his colleagues, "Investigators found that blacks were discriminated against 33% of the time in their efforts to buy homes, 44% of the time when they attempted to rent, and 37% of the times they applied for mortgage loans. Discriminatory practices included racial steering, misrepresentation about the availability of homes, differences in rental rates for the same units and the number of units that were shown, disparities in mortgage interest rates, differential application of particular stands, and others."

What to do about this? Squires and his colleagues suggest several responses, including education, learning about the situation and about people's rights. They conclude, "Racial segregation is not inevitable. It is clearly a fact of urban life, but it is not a healthy feature of cities and metropolitan areas. And it is not something a willing community must tolerate in perpetuity."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Work in Ward 6, a Developer's surprising answer

Nationwide, low- and medium-skilled jobs have disappeared, particularly from urban centers (see post 12/28). At the same time, highly skilled and highly paid individuals have moved into urban centers. The most wealthy census tract in Ward 6 has very high incomes and very low unemployment. The poorest census tract in Ward 6 has the lowest incomes and very high unemployment:

Poorest by income: Tract 71
Unemployment rate (%), 1980 11% (city average 6.8%)

Unemployment rate (%), 1990 13% (city average 7.2%)

Unemployment rate (%), 2000 17% (city average 11%)

Unemployment rate (%), 2005-09 20% (city average 9.2%)

Richest by Income: Tract 67
Unemployment rate (%), 1980 3.6% (city average 6.8%)

Unemployment rate (%), 1990 3.0% (city average 7.2%)

Unemployment rate (%), 2000 0.9% (city average 11%)

Unemployment rate (%), 2005-09 2.6% (city average 9.2%)

In future posts, I'll talk about sociologists' proposals for dealing with unemployment. Interestingly, today, the Post asked several experts, "What can Gray do for you?" Joe Sternlieb (a VP at EastBanc real estate development) gave a surprising answer for a developer:

Put people to work

The tools we've typically used to combat pockets of high unemployment in the District - job training, businesses subsidies, real estate development and local hiring requirements - will not create enough jobs (or the right ones) to get D.C.'s chronically unemployed residents working again. Your to-do list should include radically reforming how D.C. addresses joblessness.

Taking a page from the "Housing First" movement, which attacks homelessness by first giving people a place to live and then tackling the issues that made them homeless, you should launch an "Everybody Works" effort, with a goal to get every jobless person working - at any job - as a first step to addressing the issues that make it difficult for them to find or keep a job.

This doesn't mean putting everyone on the city payroll. It means reimagining work as a goal rather than a byproduct of economic growth. Start by giving every D.C. public high school student a work-study job, building skills and pride. Support experiments such as work cooperatives, in which jobless members contribute labor (from babysitting to home repair) in exchange for housing and other necessities while developing work histories and habits.

Full employment is the key to creating "One City." The way to get people working is to put them to work.

-- Joe Sternlieb

One person who wants a job and doesn't have one not only suffers personally but society also suffers. How can we create these jobs for everyone in Ward 6 (and elsewhere in DC and across the country)?