The Urban Problem

Growing urbanization is often looked at as being part of an economically positive trend in human migration. For many areas it holds the possibility of revitalization, as it has in centers such as Harlem and Brooklyn. But following just behind is a much less fortunate outcome: gentrification, essentially a displacement of existing poorer demographics as a result of a middle or upper-class influx.

The “G” Word

The process is regarded as one of the greater threats to urban populations, despite the good intentions of those carrying it out. National news has thoroughly covered the gentrification crisis in large centers (San Francisco and Los Angeles, to name a couple), but even smaller-scale cities and college towns see its effects to some degree.

Gentrification has many contributing factors, according to The Economist:

  • Improved crime conditions within the past 30 years attracted middle-class individuals from the suburbs
  • Improved conditions also make urban centers more attractive to large-scale property developers
  • The switch from an industrial economy to an information-based one drew more jobs into cities, appealing to young college graduates while withholding opportunities in unskilled labor

These developments are driven in large part by long-term migration patterns and economic developments. The factors outlined above are admittedly great for the city; however, the toll on existing demographics can be devastating.

Gentrification’s Far-Reaching Consequences

According to a 2003 PBS article, negative effects of the phenomenon already covered include:

  • Increases in rental and home costs as a result of an influx of higher-income residents
  • Drop in the percentages of racial minorities
  • Social and economic disparity between new and old demographics

This is not an issue restricted to huge urban centers. The City of Ithaca is just one of many newly-revitalized college towns that are experiencing the lasting effects of gentrification.

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