Screen grab from Governing's gentrification map.
Governing magazine has attempted to map the extent of gentrification in Los Angeles since the 2000 census. The map the magazine produced lets you click by census tract and view data. By their definition of gentrification — itself a squishy and tricky-to-define concept — the dark blue tracts are those that have gentrified since 2000. The light blue tracts — like the whole swath of South Los Angeles — are those that have not undergone an economic upswing (though certainly some of those areas have seen big demographic shifts, as South LA became much less African American and much more Latino.) The gray tracts are those that, by Governing's reckoning, are not eligible for gentrification.
Here's the whole, much bigger interactive map and a comparison to the period between 1990 and 2000.
It's part of a special report on gentrification nationally in the February issue and online. Here's the set-up:
Gentrification, no matter how you definite it, is changing the face of metropolitan areas in every region of the country and generating social consequences that would have seemed far-fetched just a few years ago.
That's why we dedicated this series to examining some of the consequences that gentrification poses for local leaders for years to come: the escalation in housing costs that has made in-town living unaffordable for all but the affluent; the rise in suburban poverty caused by the arrival of minorities and immigrants who used to be concentrated in central cities; and the creation of affluent urban communities in which traditional families are largely absent. We also explore the difficulty of attracting retail to urban core areas, and the question of whether cities can make environmental improvements to neighborhoods without ultimately displacing the people who live there.
Governing's stab at defining gentrification will resonate in Los Angeles, where most residents still live outside what is considered the central city, and where more Angelenos live in Granada Hills or Sylmar than in the gentrifying downtown or Silver Lake. But it doesn't take many hipsters to change a place, the magazine says.
The theory that gentrification is the work of artists, writers, gays and other adventurous urbanites isn’t nearly broad enough to be an adequate answer. There are many gentrified areas in American cities whose revitalization began with an influx of artists and others with Bohemian sensibilities, but there are others that skipped the Bohemian stage and moved straight from neglect to affluence within the space of a couple of years.
Still, the theory of gentrification by artists is useful in one respect: It moves the discussion into the realm of consumer demand, where the most persuasive explanation can be found. The truth is that cities aren’t gentrifying because of any master plan. They are gentrifying because a significant percentage of American adults -- especially young people with money to spend -- want to live there. Millennials have consistently told poll takers in recent years that they would prefer to live in a city if they get the chance, and growing numbers of them are following up on that desire.
This doesn’t mean that people under 30 are moving to urban neighborhoods en masse. Most middle-class Americans of all ages live in suburbs, and that will continue to be true a decade from now. No matter how many new condominiums and apartments are built in central cities in the next few years, the supply won’t be nearly large enough to house a majority of the millennials, or even a majority of those who express a desire for urban living.
But one thing we are learning about gentrification is that it doesn’t take huge numbers to produce profound effects.