With the appearance of falling crime rates in the majority of inner cities, households with higher incomes are moving into more low-income neighborhoods, according to a report funded by the Annie E. Casey and the Open Society Foundations.
From 1991 to 2012, the national violent crime rate fell by 49 percent. Crime rates fell even more significantly in low-income neighborhoods, the report revealed. “This same period saw growing proportions of high-income, college-educated, and white households opting to live in cities and in low-income and predominately minority (non-white) neighborhoods within those cities.”
The report used survey information combined with city-level data on violent crime and homicides to determine whether the dramatic decrease in crime that occurred in U.S. cities over the past two decades stimulated gentrification.
Researchers found that the choices of college-educated households to move into low-income city neighborhoods are more sensitive to reductions in homicides than the choices of households without college degrees.
According to the report, “many theories have … been offered to explain urban resurgence, such as an aging housing stock that is ripe for renovation, increasing importance of knowledge in the economy leading to a growth in employment in central cities, increasing preferences for urban amenities, declining leisure time among higher income workers.” Researchers focused largely on the reductions in crime.
They reviewed literature examining the causes of gentrification defined more specifically as moves by higher-status households into lower-status neighborhoods. These writings explored the types of households most likely to choose lower-income or minority central-city communities as well as the metropolitan area and city conditions that lead to an increased prevalence of gentrification.
Consistent with the evidence on urban resurgence, researchers also found higher-income households who are young, white, college-educated, and childless are those most likely to move into low-income neighborhoods. As affordability pressures drive them to consider a broader set of neighborhoods, the established families are more likely to choose lower-income neighborhoods in cities with rapidly appreciating housing values.
The report identifies three types of households typically considered “gentrifiers”. They include high-income (above median income), college-educated and Whites (non-Hispanic White). Approximately four million or 39 percent are high-income, 28 percent are college-educated, and 69 percent are White.