Gentrification is a difficult beast to tackle. Social scientists cannot possibly create a one-size-fits-all formula for how a neighborhood becomes gentrified: much less measure the impacts that it has. Gentrification does not exist in a vacuum.
Imhotep Adisa of the Kheprw Institute phrased it well. According to him, a couple key points about gentrification are:
1. Gentrification is a by-product of an economic development model that values profit over people.
2. Most of us (arts, community development nonprofits, etc.) are financially tied to the same economic model that leads to growing wealth disparities and contributes to gentrification.
3. Critical, open dialogues focusing on structural issues of the current economic/cultural models is the first step in creating solutions to the serious economic and human issues we are faced with in the post-Obama era.
That being said, the critical examination from the perspective of the arts community is vital in a city whose streets are peppered with blight and whose citizens often live drastically below the national poverty average.
The National Endowment for the Arts helped fund a study through the University of Texas at Arlington which examined what types of art cast a meaningful impact on gentrification. Here is an excerpt from their findings:
"We find that different arts activities are associated with different types and levels of neighborhood change. Commercial arts industries show the strongest association with gentrification in rapidly changing areas while the fine arts are associated with stable, slow-growth neighborhoods...
"In sum, a sizable literature has established that the arts can play a key role in altering conditions in central business districts and urban neighborhoods, but there is debate over which attributes of neighborhood change they are most closely associated with. Some consider an artistic presence as a catalyst for central city improvement that largely benefits elites. Others claim that the arts spur neighborhood revitalization to the benefit of existing residents. Both streams of literature, however, are highly contextual."
In the study done by the Center for Community Progress that's mentioned in the article, startling facts were discovered about Indianapolis neighborhoods, poverty and blight.
The percentage of people living in Indy below the poverty level has nearly doubled since 2000. The rest of the country has only risen about 3.2 percent. The report notes that:
"One out of five census tracts in the city saw their poverty rate more than triple between 2000 and 2014, while only 12 out of over 200 tracts saw the poverty rate go down during the same period."
• In 2000 (Indianapolis) 11.90 percent lived below poverty
• In 2014 (Indianapolis) 21.40 percent lived below poverty
Our wages aren't going up nearly as quickly as the rest of the country. Median household income has only risen by about $2,000 in Indy, where in the rest of the country it rose by over $11,000.
• In 2000 (Indianapolis) $40,051
• In 2014 (Indianapolis) $42,076
• In 2000 (USA) $41,994
• In 2014 (USA) $53,482
There are more abandoned houses in Indy than the national average. The percentage of housing units vacant in Indianapolis in 2014 is a full percent higher than the rest of the country.
• In 2014 (Indianapolis) 13.9 percent
• In 2014 (USA) 12.5 percent