Pioneers of Gentrification: Transformation in Global Neighborhoods in Urban America in the Late Twentieth Century


Few studies have considered the role of immigration in the rise of gentrification in the late twentieth century. Analysis of U.S. Census and American Community Survey data over 24 years and field surveys of gentrification in low-income neighborhoods across 23 U.S. cities reveal that most gentrifying neighborhoods were “global” in the 1970s or became so over time. An early presence of Asians was positively associated with gentrification; and an early presence of Hispanics was positively associated with gentrification in neighborhoods with substantial shares of blacks and negatively associated with gentrification in cities with high Hispanic growth, where ethnic enclaves were more likely to form. Low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods and neighborhoods that became Asian and Hispanic destinations remained ungentrified despite the growth of gentrification during the late twentieth century. The findings suggest that the rise of immigration after 1965 brought pioneers to many low-income central-city neighborhoods, spurring gentrification in some neighborhoods and forming ethnic enclaves in others.