Re-measuring gentrification


We develop an expectations-based measure of gentrification. Property values today incorporate market participants’ expectations of the neighbourhood’s future. We contrast this with present-oriented variables like demographics. To operationalise the signal implicit in property values, we contrast the percentile rank of a neighbourhood’s average house price to that of its average income, relative to its metropolitan area. We take as our signal of gentrification the rise of a neighbourhood’s house value percentile above its income percentile. We show that a gap between the house value and income percentiles predicts future income growth. We further validate our metric against existing approaches to identify gentrification, finding that it aligns meaningfully with qualitative analyses built on local insight. Compared to existing quantitative approaches, we obtain similar results but usually observe them in earlier years and with more parsimonious data. Our approach has several advantages: conceptual simplicity, communicative flexibility with graphical and map forms and availability for small geographies on an annual basis with minimal lag.

Urban Studies