The Key to Gentrification

From EconoSpeak:

“In the world of urban politics, there is probably no more potent populist rallying cry than the demand to halt gentrification.  Activists have fought it on multiple fronts: zoning, development subsidies, permitting, rent control—every lever housing policies afford.  But what if they’re mistaking cause for effect, hacking away at the visible manifestations of the problem while leaving the problem itself intact?

Pivot to an important article in today’s New York Times, reporting on recent research David Autor  of MIT presented at the economics meetings in Atlanta earlier this month.  It’s all summed up in this set of charts:

As you can see from the tiny print at the top, the data are being read horizontally within each chart, from less dense regions (rural areas) on the left to high density cities on the right.  The question being asked in the article is, if you live in a rural area or a small town, how much benefit can you get from moving to a big city?  In the early post-WWII period, the answer was “a lot” for both the majority holding only a high school diploma and the few with a college BA.  By 2015 the situation had changed: it was still a good move for college grads but there was little to be gained by those with only a high school education—and probably even less when you factor in the increased cost of living.  That’s an interesting story.

But there’s another way to read these charts, vertically, comparing wage gaps at any particular time and place between these two education-defined groups.  In 1950 the gap was relatively small; in the densest cities the college crowd made about 30% more per hour than the high schoolers.  By 2015 they made almost twice as much.  And don’t forget that the rise of inequality is virtually fractal: similar gaps have opened up within the top 20%, and within the top 5%, 1% and .01%.  The whole rightward tail of the distribution has elongated, pulling ever further from the median.”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 10:46 AM

Labels: Global Housing Watch, Inclusive Growth


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