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Does New Transit Gentrify Low-Income Communities?

Some believe new rail transit lines in low-income communities could benefit residents by connecting them to jobs and services. But others worry new transit investments may increase property values, leading to gentrification and displacement of residents with low incomes. Displacement is difficult to measure because it requires researchers to define an appropriate time period and the type of neighborhood change, and datasets cannot capture every measure of displacement. This study’s authors use an alternative metric to understand residential mobility—eviction rates—to explore the link between new transit and displacement.

The researchers chose to measure eviction rates because eviction is considered a form of direct displacement and an involuntary move and because they provide an alternative to more traditional datasets, such as tax records. Researchers analyzed data from four cities that built or extended rail transit systems between 2005 and 2009—Newark, New Jersey; San Diego, California; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Seattle, Washington. They used census block group data from 2001–16 sourced from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. The data include the number of eviction judgements in which renters were ordered to leave in a given block group and year, eviction filings in a block group, and the eviction filing rates. The dataset only includes formal evictions.

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