When Violence Drops, Wealthy Move In

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Adams Morgan neighborhood, DC. Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr

Adams Morgan neighborhood, DC. Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr

New research finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods, the New York Times reports. A working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, encouraging gentrification. It highlights how, even if many people, including President-elect Donald Trump,  inaccurately believe urban violence is soaring, the opposite long-term trend has brought wide-ranging change to cities. The research was done by New York University Urban Policy Prof. Ingrid Gould Ellen, with Keren Horn of the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Davin Reed of NYU.

“We’re trying to help people understand what a dramatic difference the reduction in violent crime in particular has made in our environment,” 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. While homicides have increased in some cities, rates remain far below what they were 25 years ago. The new research looked at confidential geocoded data from the 1990 and 2000 censuses, and more recent American Community Surveys, to identify the neighborhoods where more than four million households moved. Using violent crime data from the FBI, the scholars tracked the changing probability of different demographic groups moving into central cities, as opposed to suburbs, as crime fell.

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