More On Flow (Or Churn)

Blight in Chicago’s Englewood community.  Source: Chicago Tribune

We all know the saying, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”  The challenge in our world is to apply the knowledge gained in one area to another.

Shortly after posting yesterday’s piece on “flow”, I heard from Jim Russell, whose migration theory I spelled out but on a micro, neighborhood level, to explain the past and present of many African-American communities.  It seems there’s research to support my assertions.  Jim pointed me to a 2009 British study done by the Center for Urban Policy Studies of Manchester University, on behalf of the European Urban Knowledge Network.  Called “A Typology of The Functional Roles of Deprived Neighborhoods,” the study categorizes four types of neighborhoods in the United Kingdom’s largest cities, based on inmigration and outmigration patterns.

I’ll spare you the details of the study, but here’s the fascinating part of it:

Neighborhood Type
Neighborhoods In-Movers Come From Are…
Neighborhoods Out-Movers Move To Are…
Transit
Wealthier
Wealthier
Escalator
Poorer
Wealthier
Gentrifier
Wealthier
Poorer
Isolate
Poorer
Poorer

Think this through and you will recognize the neighborhood types in your metro area.  Transit neighborhoods are akin to so-called “Bohemian” neighborhoods in many cities, with relatively well-off young people moving into edgy-yet-affordable neighborhoods to experience the grit and authenticity of urban life before retreating for the suburbs.  Escalator neighborhoods are similar to traditional immigrant gateway neighborhoods, where new settlers can acculturate, establish themselves and move on.  Gentrifier neighborhoods follow the typical pattern of upscale “invasion and displacement” we’ve seen in cities around the country.
But this Isolate neighborhood type?  Direct from the study:

Isolate areas represent neighbourhoods in which households come from
and move to areas that are equally or more deprived. Hence they can be
seen as neighbourhoods that are associated with a degree of entrapment
of poor households who are unable to break out of living in deprived
areas.

Isolated.  Entrapment.  Unable to break out.  That sounds quite like the conditions in many poor African-American neighborhoods.

Another chart describes the flow/churn dynamics for each neighborhood type (I’ve taken the liberty to do this based on my interpretation of the report; this does not appear in it):

Neighborhood Type
Inmigration Rate
Outmigration Rate
Transit
High
Low
Escalator
Low
High
Gentrifier
High
High
Isolate
Low
Low
The question on my mind is: where is the research on this in the U.S.?  
Amazingly, right after reading this report I came across a blog post by Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic.  In a post about the police killing of car accident victim Jonathan Ferrell, Coates laments the lack of economic and social progress made by African-Americans over the last 40 years:

Above you see a chart look at blacks and whites born in poor and affluent neighborhoods, and what happened to them across a generation. The chart then shows what percentage of each group’s families remained in poor neighborhoods, and which group’ did not. It also shows what percent of each group’s families born into affluent neighborhoods were able to remain there, and what percent of each group’s families were not. As you can see the results are glum. Put simply if you are black and grew up around poverty, your children probably grew up the same way. If you are white and grew up around poverty, your children probably did better. If you are black and grew up around affluence, your children probably didn’t. If you are white and grew up around affluence, your child probably did. 

That is the impact of Isolate neighborhoods on our nation’s metro areas.  Our Rust Belt cities in particular are chock full of them.  And Rust Belt metros — entire metros — will not experience true full-scale revitalization until a way is found to eliminate them. 

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