From Chicago to Rio de Janeiro, gentrification seems to be one of the many pivots of urban growth. In yet another attempt to study the phenomenon, a group of researchers published a paper in Urban Studies, exploring the connection between the arts and gentrified neighborhoods in cities.
The paper, titled “Gentrification, Displacement, and the Arts,” was a joint effort between researchers at Monash University in Australia, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Texas at Dallas. The researchers conducted a study that ‘untangles’ the effect of both fine arts like art galleries and museums and also commercial arts like the film and music industries in 30 metropolitan American cities, all of which have more than two million inhabitants.
For the purpose of the study, cities were analyzed by ZIP Code between the years 2000 and 2013 and the neighborhoods were split into five categories: ‘affluent,’ ‘already gentrified,’ ‘gentrifying,’ ‘potential to gentrify,’ and ‘no potential to gentrify.’ In addition to the correlation between gentrification and art establishments, the study looked at how displacement also occurs in these neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods deemed as ‘affluent’ were in the city’s top 20 percent of income at the time the study began; whereas ‘no potential to gentrify’ referred to neighborhoods that were more or less middle class with a median income and new housing that was slightly above the city’s average.
‘Gentrifying’ neighborhoods, on the other hand, were those that had an increase in the number of individuals that were over 25 years old and held a bachelor’s degree or greater than the city’s overall number in addition to a notable increase in median housing value at the same time. Similarly, ‘gentrified’ neighborhoods had a median housing value and income that was higher than the city’s overall.
Neighborhoods that were classified as having ‘potential to gentrify’ had an income less than the city’s median in the year 2000 and had less new construction built between 1980 and 2000 in comparison to the city’s average.
The study pointed out that the neighborhoods with a high concentration of fine and commercial art establishments fell in the affluent and gentrified neighborhoods’ category as well as neighborhoods that had no potential for gentrification.
To be more precise, fine arts establishments were found more in affluent and gentrified neighborhoods, meaning these areas were more likely to be home to independent artists, museums, and art galleries.
Commercial arts establishments, or neighborhoods with thriving music and film scenes, on the other hand, were more concentrated in gentrified and gentrifying neighborhoods. These kinds of establishments were scarce in affluent neighborhoods. Surprisingly, the kinds of establishments that sought out neighborhoods with cheaper rent were market-driven or for-profit organizations as opposed to art galleries or non-profit organizations.
The study successfully establishes that there is a heavy presence of art establishments in neighborhoods that have experienced or are experiencing a degree of gentrification. But the matter of fact is that these art establishments are not necessarily the driving force of gentrification. In other words, while these patterns might be a useful tool in understanding the correlation between gentrification and art establishments, they do not necessarily prove that the presence of art establishments causes gentrification.