Class Inequality in Space: The Spatial Process of Class Reorganization from 1970 to 2009

Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana, University of California, Berkeley

The income segregation and gentrification literatures have documented two potentially conflicting trends: the affluent are increasingly isolated from the middle-class and poor, yet low-income neighborhoods are increasingly experiencing an in-movement of the middle-class. With segregation scholars focused on aggregate trends and gentrification scholars focused on local change of specific neighborhoods, we have little understanding of how these socio-spatial processes interact. This paper investigates upward neighborhood succession or the neighborhood change from a lower to a higher socio-economic group from 1970 to 2009 to explain the patterns of neighborhood “upgrading” during a period of increasing income segregation. The findings reveal that while the upward neighborhood succession literature has focused on low-income neighborhoods through gentrification, American cities are undergoing a broader class reorganization that is largely changing middle-class neighborhoods to higher income. In fact, middle-income neighborhoods are about 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to experience upward neighborhood succession than low-income neighborhoods.

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Presented in Session 227: Urbanization and Urban Change