Repost: Churn Types Defined

(Note: It’s been incredibly busy for me lately, making it difficult to produce more original stuff.  So I’m going to replay something that was likely lost in the middle of the 2013 holiday season anyway.  This is actually pretty relevant as a followup to some recent posts I did on gentrification.  See you soon.  -Pete)

You know, on two occasions I’ve nudged Jim Russell and Richey Piiparinen on their churn theory, which points out how integral migration is to economic development.  On both occasions, they pointed me to this study from the University of Manchester’s Centre for Urban Policy Studies, which provides some academic thrust to their work.  Since they’ve pointed this out to me, I guess it rests on me to comment.

From the study’s synopsis:

Brian Robson, working with two CUPS researchers – Kitty Lymperopoulou and Alasdair Rae, developed a functional typology of deprived areas to capture the dynamic nature of neighbourhoods, as part of an evaluation of the government’s strategy for neighbourhood renewal. Neighbourhoods are regarded, not as static fixed entities, but as dynamic spatial containers through which households move as they may – or may not – improve their socio-economic position in the housing and labour markets. Four types of deprived neighbourhood were identified based on the level of deprivation of areas to which most out-migrants moved and the areas from which most in-migrants came.

Their work was based in the United Kingdom, but appears to have considerable value for application in the United States.  Through their analysis, they found four neighborhood types, based on migration patterns:

  • Escalator — Neighborhoods where new residents come from poorer areas and eventually relocate to wealthier areas.
  • Gentrifier — Neighborhoods where new residents come from wealthier areas and eventually relocate to similarly wealthy areas, or (if displaced) move to poorer areas.
  • Transit — Neighborhoods where new residents come from and eventually move to wealthy areas.
  • Isolate — Neighborhoods where new residents come from and eventually move to poorer areas.
Without a doubt the study fits my understanding of neighborhood migration patterns in the U.S., and begs for similar work here.  In fact, a cursory application of the typology for Chicago neighborhoods might look like this:
  • Escalator -> Little Village, Pilsen
  • Gentrifier -> West Loop, South Loop, Logan Square, Hyde Park
  • Transit -> Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Ravenswood
  • Isolate -> Englewood, East and West Garfield Park, Roseland, Austin
Again, I would love to see similar analysis here.  I’m not familiar at all with social mobility and migration patterns in the UK, but using this typology as a starting point, I see a few things:
  • There is a hierarchy to the pattern.  It’s pretty clear isolate neighborhoods are at the bottom rung of the hierarchy, with a closed and impoverished loop feeding them.  Escalator neighborhoods seem to be the next step up, delivering on a promise of better economic prospects for poor residents.  Gentrifier neighborhoods would signify a next-level Escalator neighborhood, with a growing number of wealthy people choosing to stay, increasing the number of wealthier residents.  And transit neighborhoods would represent a high-income closed loop that mimics isolate neighborhoods.  
  • Escalator and Gentrifier neighborhoods are steps in the process, not the end state.  I struggled to think of a large number of Escalator neighborhoods in Chicago; there are maybe a few others (Belmont-Cragin and Avondale come to mind), and for the most part they’re Latino neighborhoods.  Residents here have been known to relocate to other city neighborhoods or to the suburbs after achieving a level of economic security.  Similarly, Gentrifier neighborhoods seem to be fewer in number in Chicago, and they’re generally places where the income transformation hasn’t moved as quickly as it has in other areas, but continues nonetheless.  What both share is a relatively steady inmigration of people.
  • Transit and Isolate neighborhoods are the end state.  At least in Chicago, transit neighborhoods seem to be what happens when inmigration from wealthier areas reaches escape velocity; isolate neighborhoods are what happens when inmigration stops altogether.
The last point is the one most troubling to me.  I see Chicago neighborhoods, largely African-American neighborhoods, that were once solidly in the Escalator neighborhood category.  But once inmigration ceased, particularly from the South, their shift to Isolate neighborhood accelerated quickly.  On the other hand, I see other North, Northwest and Southwest Side former Escalator neighborhoods that witnessed a shift in migration sources, and have continued to prosper.
There will be more on this.

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