Several theoretical debates in gentrification literature deal with the role and importance of migration, incumbent social mobility, and demographic change in urban social change. These debates primarily focus on structural processes. However, we have comparatively little insight into how and to what degree different mechanisms actually underpin upgrading in urban neighbourhoods. This paper uses Dutch register data to show how migration, social mobility and demographic change each contribute to gentrification in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
First, our findings show that migration remains key to understand the growing numbers of higher-income residents in gentrification neighbourhoods. Yet, social mobility and demographic change – notably ageing– are most important in explaining dwindling numbers of lower-income residents. Second, large differences exist across neighbourhoods. By mapping three ideal-typical drivers of gentrification, we show how the migration-based ‘displacement model’ predominantly occurs in upgrading neighbourhoods with a high status. Conversely, in low-status upgrading neighbourhoods incumbent social mobility is more important in explaining gentrification. We show that gentrification occurs in multiple guises across both cities, and is liable to change over time. These different forms of gentrification, and accompanying theoretical positions, should be integrated to advance our understanding of gentrification as a widespread, diverse process of urban change.
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