Changes in psychosocial wellbeing over a five-year period in two predominantly Black Pittsburgh neighbourhoods: A comparison between gentrifying and non-gentrifying census tracts

Blog post by Alexandra Mendoza-Graf

11 Jan 2023, 2:20 p.m.
Alexandra Mendoza-Graf

Many historically disinvested communities across the United States have experienced rapid socioeconomic change — an influx of new, more educated residents and business designed to attract or serve such people, generally described as gentrification. My interest in this topic stems from several key areas of both my work and personal experience. For some time, my research had focused on different aspects of our lives that have the potential to impact our health and wellbeing, like where we live, where we go to school, the resources we have in our neighbourhoods, and with whom we socialise; that is, the association between setting and health. However, my interest in this space was also influenced by my experience of growing up in a low-income community in Los Angeles which has been undergoing rapid change in the form of gentrification. Gentrification was happening in many cities across the country, and researchers and policy makers alike were split on whether these kinds of changes were good or bad for residents. So, I decided to collaborate with a group of researchers who were already studying connections between setting and health in two neighbourhoods in Pittsburgh, one of which was undergoing gentrification while the other was not, in order to explore connections between gentrification and health and wellbeing.

As a way to capture how gentrification might be connected to aspects of health and wellbeing for residents in a gentrifying neighbourhood, we surveyed residents of both neighbourhoods at multiple points in time and measured changes in social cohesion, or how closely bonded residents felt to their neighbours and neighbourhood institutions, their mental health, and their overall satisfaction in their neighbourhood. We found social cohesion and neighbourhood satisfaction generally improved over time for all residents, regardless of whether their neighbourhood experienced gentrification. However, the picture is in fact more nuanced than that—those living in the neighbourhood that did not experience gentrification saw bigger improvements in satisfaction with their own neighbourhood and in social cohesion than those whose neighbourhood was gentrifying.

Our study findings provide new information about how gentrification in a predominantly Black neighbourhood might impact its different types of residents, both positively and negatively, an issue that to-date has not been widely explored. This information is essential for policy makers, as it can provide insights as to what populations may need extra support or resources and aid in developing policies and programs that are targeted to those who are most affected by the unintended consequences of neighbourhood changes and gentrification.


Read the accompanying article on Urban Studies OnlineFirst here.



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