Unequal Displacement: Gentrification, Racial Stratification, and Residential Destinations in Philadelphia

Lei Ding
American Journal of Sociology

Drawing from sociological theory and research on residential mobility and neighborhood stratification, which primarily explain urban decline and persistent segregation, the authors propose a framework for examining residential displacement in the context of gentrification. Using this framework, this study assesses how gentrification shapes whether and where disadvantaged residents move, using a unique large-scale consumer credit database of residents in Philadelphia from 2002 to 2014. The authors find that gentrification’s consequences on the residential mobility patterns of financially disadvantaged residents are unequally distributed by the racial contexts in which gentrification is taking place. The authors argue that mechanisms of racial stratification that govern both the valuation of neighborhoods and neighborhood sorting patterns explain these differences. They also find that gentrification is indirectly displacing disadvantaged residents over time. Their analysis demonstrates how gentrification in the 21st century is fundamentally structured by racial stratification and reconfiguring the urban landscape and residential sorting in ways that exacerbate neighborhood inequality by race and class.