In yesterday’s article, we examined research on gentrification and racial displacement. Research published by The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity by the University of Minnesota’s Law School, provides a census tract map of displacement in the United States.


For each census tract, the data identifies the change in income and racial groups, the change in college non-graduates and graduates, age demographics, immigrants, and units that are owned, rented, or vacant.

The report offers a brief history or urbanization and suburban sprawl. In the pre-war era, urban areas were at their peak with a diversity of racial and ethnic groups, centralized commerce, and amenities. The 20th century marked an age of suburban sprawl fueled by segregation, racial division, municipal fragmentation, and individuals “voting with their feet” to move out of the center City to better school districts.

The financial crisis and the housing crash in the 2000s marked a move back to the City. However, many worry about the challenge of gentrification and displacement as affluent, white residents move back to the urban areas.

In the era of sprawl, neighborhood economic development models did not account for racial and ethnic makeup and displacement. In the absence of a clear model that defines healthy economic development at the neighborhood level, some communities diverge. Some seek investment at any costs and others choosing to restrict reinvestment to prevent gentrification.

The report identifies a couple of key trends. First, gentrification outside of major metros is not occurring … “yet.” Certainly, gentrification and displacement are occurring in major metros that have a high population density. However, across many metros in the United States, there is a development lag where the suburban areas are still the census tracts being gentrified. However, this could quickly change due to the cultural movement toward urbanism advanced by countless thought leaders and elected officials. Without intentionality, small to mid-size cities could begin to gentrify.

The second conclusion find that “substantially more residents are living in areas that have faced economic decline than have faced experienced economic expansion.”

Affluent residents flock to a handful of census tracts within a region as once stable working-class neighborhoods begin to decline.

Additionally, the report concludes that “white flight” is still occurring in American cities. A startling statistic reads: “The white population of strongly expanding neighborhoods increase much more rapidly than [tract] population overall by 44%.”

Census Tract Data and Customized Local Programs

It is only within the last couple of years that tract level data could be developed and distributed in mass via the Internet. This data represents valuable research that can be used to craft census by census tract solutions to neighborhood challenges. There are structural reforms that need to occur within cities such as the elimination of primary reasons for “white flight.”

However, with census by census tract data, local Governments can begin to implement targeted solutions for a specific area. For example, as a census tract begins to lose University education, a concentrated effort could help those residents achieve higher education.

Similar programs could improve home-ownership in specific census tracts and build intergenerational wealth for those famillies. Moreover, local Governments can now understand the true cost associated with fighting gentrification and displacement and more generally mitigating the divergence within regions.