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I just finished reading a wonderful book on the history of Buffalo called City on the Edge. There’s much to talk about in there. But one thing that happened in Buffalo that has happened all over the country was the “flight” from the inner cities by the middle class during the 50s and 60s. This, rightly or wrongly, has been argued to have contributed to the decline of the inner cities. I shall not comment on that now.

I also used to live in NYC. I have family that has lived there to. And one thing that has been happening there recently, and around the country, is the return of upper-middle class professionals. They are returning, in many cases, to areas that can politely be described as, “formerly undesirable.” The fancy term for this has been “Gentrification.”

Look around a bit and listen to conversations about our cities and you will hear both that, “flight from the inner cities has been bad” and at the same time, “gentrification in inner cities is bad” – particularly when we are talking about the urban poor. So here we have a mental model of urban economics that has at its core that BOTH people leaving AND coming to the city pose problems for the urban core.

Chew on that while I grade papers.

3 Responses to “Goldi-Locks on the City Block”

  1. a leap at the wheel says:

    I don’t know about your comparison. When I hear about the evils of gentrification, I’m not hearing that its bad for the neighborhood’s economy. I’m hearing that it’s bad for the neighborhoods social character, or that it forcing residents to relocate, or [insert clearly racist sentiment covered up with some thin constructive reasoning].

    /source – I live in a neighborhood that is adjacent to a neighborhood “struggling” with gentrification, and I follow the conversation pretty closely.

  2. wintercow20 says:

    That’s exactly what I am saying.

  3. Anonymous jones says:

    This is an interesting discussion, though it might merit more thought.

    First, are there really a lot of examples of a person saying both things are bad (I.e., is the overlap of the two subsets of people who have said one or the other really that large?).

    Second, is it really inconsistent if in fact there are people who say both things? I would think that both statements are raising issues with the *transition* as much as the result.

    Finally, are people really using the word ‘bad’? I would think on the contrary that most people are raising issues with both transitions rather than making an unqualified value assessment of either process. Every policy, every trend, has winners and losers. It is sometimes (though certainly not always) beneficial to acknowledge the losers of the policy and ameliorate some of the more outsized consequences.

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