NYT: How to Profitably Predict When Tragic Dirt Will Turn Into Magic Dirt—Look For Falling Crime
January 05, 2017, 06:37 PM
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From the New York Times’ Upshot section:

How to Predict Gentrification: Look for Falling Crime

Emily Badger @emilymbadger JAN. 5, 2017

Everyone has theories for why well-educated, higher-income professionals are moving back into parts of cities shunned by their parents’ generation.

Perhaps their living preferences have shifted. Or the demands of the labor market have, and young adults with less leisure time are loath to waste it commuting. Maybe the tendency to postpone marriage and children has made city living more alluring. Or the benefits of cities themselves have improved.

“There are all sorts of potential other amenities, whether it’s cafes, restaurants, bars, nicer parks, better schools,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University.

“But a huge piece of it,” she said, “I think is crime.”

Ladies and gentlemen: you have just witnessed a novel thought in the history of the human race!
New research that she has conducted alongside Keren Mertens Horn, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Davin Reed, a doctoral student at N.Y.U., finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods.
Their working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, spurring gentrification.
But, but, I had always read that White Flight a half century ago was solely due to racist hallucinations.
And it highlights how, even if many Americans — including, by his own words, President-elect Donald Trump — inaccurately believe urban violence is soaring, the opposite long-term trend has brought wide-ranging change to cities.
Homicides have soared since Ferguson in cities that had the bad luck to have the Eye of Soros turn upon them: St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, etc.
“We’re trying to help people understand what a dramatic difference the reduction in violent crime in particular has made in our environment,” Ms. Ellen said. “That has repercussions far beyond what we think of. The homicide rate has gone down — that’s directly the most important consequence. But there are all sorts of repercussions as well. This really has been a sea change.”

Nationally, violent crime peaked in 1991. It fell precipitously for the next decade, then more slowly through the 2000s (and there’s a whole other set of theories about why that has happened). While homicides have increased recently in some cities, rates remain far below what they were 25 years ago, including in Chicago. (Another end-of-year fact-check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent. In fact, it fell by 17 percent in 2016.)

Uh, obviously, during the 2016 campaign, Trump was referring to the 2015 increase in homicides in Washington DC. In his usual understated way, Trump actually understated the 2015 increase, which was 54%, not Trump’s 50%. So, homicides in the nation’s capital in 2016, such as the murder of Seth Rich, were up 28% over 2014. Homicides ought to drop several percentage points per year due to better emergency care and better surveillance technology.

By the way, predicting gentrification should be doable using Big Data, crowdsourcing, keyword analysis of social media, and the like. There are fortunes to be made.

That reminds me: In Los Angeles, gentrification tends to happen near or in hills — Silver Lake, Echo Park, Highland Park, Atwater Village. It goes back to the Night of the Locust assumption among Southern California thought leaders that hills are more defensible when the L.A. Zombie Apocalypse happens.

But the problem with this love of hills is that hills are bad for the end game of gentrification — as seen in gentrification Nirvana, Park Slope in Brooklyn — which is neighborhoods where numerous married mothers of two push double strollers down the sidewalks. Hilly neighborhoods, however, are tougher to walk and often don’t even have sidewalks.

Los Angeles has lots and lots of flat neighborhoods, but gentrifiers have typically shunned them for a lack of borders. This seems like a coordination problem that social media could overcome.

[Comment at Unz.com]