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Urban Studies
DOI:
10.1177/0042098016680169
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Article

Gentrification, displacement and the
arts: Untangling the relationship
between arts industries and place
change

Urban Studies
1–19
Ó Urban Studies Journal Limited 2016
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0042098016680169
usj.sagepub.com

Carl Grodach
Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Nicole Foster
University of Texas at Arlington, USA

James Murdoch
2M Research Services, LLC, USA

Abstract
The arts have long played a role in debates around gentrification and displacement, yet their roles
and impacts as change agents are not clear-cut. According to the standard account, artists facilitate gentrification and ultimately engender the displacement of lower income households, but
more recent research complicates the accepted narrative. This article seeks to untangle the relationship between the arts, gentrification and displacement through a statistical study of
neighbourhood-level arts industry activity within large US regions. The findings indicate that the
standard arts-led gentrification narrative is too generalised or simply no longer applicable to contemporary arts-gentrification processes. Rather, the arts have multiple, even conflicting relationships with gentrification and displacement that depend on context and type of art. These results
have important implications for how we study the role of the arts in neighbourhood change and
for how governments approach the arts and creative industries in urban policy.
Keywords
arts, creative economy, cultural industries, displacement, gentrification
Received March 2016; accepted October 2016

This article seeks to untangle the relationship
between the arts, gentrification and displacement through a study of arts industries in
large US regions. Most literature concentrates
on gentrification in relation to individual

Corresponding author:
Carl Grodach, Queensland University of Technology,
Property and Planning Discipline, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane,
Queensland 4001, Australia.
Email: carl.grodach@qut.edu.; au

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artists and their residential choices. Much less
is known about how artistic businesses and
establishments relate to gentrification and displacement. It has long been understood that
an arts presence helps to facilitate gentrification – the process by which neighbourhoods
suffering from disinvestment experience an
influx of capital and of middle and upper class
residents (Ley, 1996; Smith, 1996; Zukin,
1982). The common narrative is that artists
move to a neighbourhood perceived as
blighted and set the stage for gentrification by
renovating and upgrading aging industrial,
residential and commercial buildings. Their
efforts serve to change the look and feel of
urban neighbourhoods, which attract higher
income groups that often displace long-time
residents and businesses as well as the artists
themselves (Curran, 2010; Deutsche and Ryan,
1984; Ley, 2003; Lloyd, 2010; Mathews, 2010;
Pratt, 2009; Zukin, 1982, 2010). The arts may
catalyse gentrification through public policy as
well. Increasingly, cities turn towards investment in arts institutions and cultural districts,
and the attraction of creative industries,
exploiting their cultural capital to generate
development interest and consumer spending
(Cameron and Coaffee, 2005; Catungal et al.,
2009; Grodach, 2010, 2012; Hutton, 2009; Ley,
2003; Mathews, 2014; Ponzini and Rossi, 2010;
Sasajima, 2013; Zukin and Braslow, 2011).
Each of these familiar types of arts-led
gentrification remains embroiled in the
wider debate surrounding gentrification and
place change. Gentrification has the potential to bring benefits to residents in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods if it occurs
without widespread displacement. As gentrification deconcentrates poverty, it may
enhance access to quality housing, education
and employment (Freeman, 2005; Freeman
and Braconi, 2004). In conjunction, the
influx of higher income households is associated with new investments and amenities,
higher real estate values and lower crime
(Brown-Saracino, 2010; Papachristos et al.,

2011). Yet, many argue that while gentrification deconcentrates poverty in specific
places, it does not occur without significant
social tensions and the displacement of
lower income households and businesses
(Bridge et al., 2011; Chaskin and Joseph,
2013). Gentrification may exacerbate economic inequality and destroy community
ties while reducing the stock of affordable
housing at large (Lees et al., 2008; Newman
and Wyly, 2006; Slater, 2006).
For these reasons, gentrification has
remained a central debate in urban studies.
The arts have played a key part in that
debate yet their roles and impacts as change
agents are not clear-cut. The standard artsled gentrification narrative is too generalised
or simply no longer applicable to contemporary arts-gentrification processes. As recent
research shows, in certain contexts, artistic
activities may generate neighbourhood revitalisation without displacement and to the
benefit of existing residents (Foster et al.,
2016; Grodach, 2011; Markusen and
Gadwa, 2010; Stern and Seifert, 2010). Other
work demonstrates that the standard relationship may be reversed – artistic businesses
and organisations may gravitate to areas
with pre-existing creative industry clusters
and affluent, professional populations
(Murdoch et al., 2016; Schuetz, 2014;
Schuetz and Green, 2014). In other words,
artists and arts-related businesses may actually seek out gentrified areas where their
patrons work and live. Moreover, different
forms of artistic activity (i.e. artists, arts
organisations, artistic businesses) may have
different relationships to neighbourhood
change so that while some forms of art may
be associated with gentrification (and potentially displacement), others are not (Grodach
et al., 2014). Indeed, most work has focused
on how individual artists influence gentrification rather than the effect of artistic businesses and establishments, which are of
increasing economic importance to many

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3

regions and a target of urban policy.
Further, these relationships may vary by
urban and regional context. Gentrification is
not only more typical in some places than
others, but has occurred at different periods
of time in different cities. New York has
experienced earlier, broader waves of gentrification than Dallas and, to a lesser extent,
Chicago for example.
Given the potential for different and conflicting outcomes, and the dearth of research
on art industries compared to that on artist
residence, this article examines the relationship between an arts industry presence, gentrification and displacement. We ask the
following questions: How is the presence of
arts establishments associated with gentrification and displacement? Alternatively, do
gentrifying or gentrified areas attract an arts
industry? Do the arts avoid gentrified places
altogether? To address these questions, the
study statistically examines the relationship
of arts industries to gentrification and displacement in different urban and regional
contexts. Using data on arts establishments,
we examine two types of art activity, the fine
arts and commercial arts, in US metros with
a population over 2,000,000 between 2000
and 2013. We also hone in on the patterns in
four large regions with different arts industry characteristics: Chicago, Dallas, Los
Angeles and New York. The findings indicate that the arts-gentrification narrative
does not hold up as a generalised pattern
across different types of arts activity. We
find that arts industries generally do not
play a significant role in gentrification and
displacement. In fact, arts industry growth is
weakest in gentrifying areas and it is gentrification that predicts arts growth in most contexts. The exception to this occurs only in
those neighbourhoods with a concentration
of arts activity that are located in regions
where the arts are not widely concentrated
and gentrification is not widespread. These
results have important implications for how

we study the role of the arts in neighbourhood change and for how governments
approach the arts and creative industries in
urban policy.

Unpacking the arts-gentrification
relationship
Scholars recognise that gentrification has
taken on different forms and proceeds at a
differing pace and scale across time and
place, often with successively higher levels of
capital and corporate and state investment
(Hackworth and Smith, 2001; Smith, 1996).
At each stage in the ‘life cycle’ of gentrification, artists, arts organisations and artistic
businesses are framed as playing a central
role as agents and supporting actors in
neighbourhood change (Cameron and
Coafee, 2005; Deutsche and Ryan, 1984;
Ley, 2003; Lloyd, 2010; Mathews, 2010;
Yoon and Currid-Halkett, 2015; Zukin,
1982; Zukin and Braslow, 2011).
In the most common account, the gentrification process is initiated as educated individuals with modest incomes are attracted to
the ‘gritty authenticity’ and low-cost functionality of aging industrial buildings and
dilapidated central city neighbourhoods
(Glass, 1964; Ley, 1996, 2003; Lloyd, 2010;
Silver and Miller, 2013; Zukin 1982, 2010).
In this context, artistic activity is considered
to spark the first stage of gentrification by
engendering the early transformation of a
disinvested urban area. Since Zukin’s (1982)
study of gentrification in SoHo, many have
observed that artists are attracted to such
places based on their affordability and
adaptability and the aesthetics of declining
historic and industrial buildings and neighbourhoods (Chang, 2016; Deutsche and
Ryan, 1984; Ley, 1996, 2003; Mathews,
2010; Shaw, 2013). As artists and arts organisations make these neighbourhoods home,
they establish a ‘bohemian’ atmosphere and
create new economic value through small-

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scale artistic businesses and neighbourhood
amenities including bars and cafes (Hutton,
2009; Lloyd, 2010; Zukin and Braslow, 2011).
The physical and symbolic appropriation
of a disinvested neighbourhood by these
‘pioneer’ gentrifiers changes area character
and sets the stage for future rounds of gentrification (Brown-Saracino, 2010; Cameron
and Coafee, 2005; Ley, 1996, 2003; Smith,
1996; Zukin, 1982). Here, a new wave of
migration occurs. Spurning the homogeneity
of suburban living, professionals with higher
incomes settle in the neighbourhood in
search of ‘authentic’ urban places (Ley,
1996; Zukin 1982, 2010). Newcomers are
more likely to purchase and renovate properties, which begins to price out former residents and first-wave gentrifiers, including
artists and small arts businesses. These
groups in turn are forced to seek out accommodations elsewhere in the city, often in
adjacent neighbourhoods, where the gentrification process begins anew (Shaw, 2008).
Finally, this lays the foundation for
broader and deeper levels of capital accumulation (Hackworth and Smith, 2001; Lees,
2003; Wyly and Hammel, 1999). The initial
stages of gentrification pave the way to further upscale urban neighbourhoods and are
accompanied by additional displacement.
Developers, property investors and governments spearhead new redevelopment projects marketed to affluent buyers that
incorporate luxury residential high-rises with
corporate and boutique retail. These projects
often include flagship museums, performing
arts venues or smaller-scale arts activities to
catalyse development and attract the interest
of creative class consumers. Similarly, they
may brand areas as arts districts and partner
with arts organisations to promote development (Ashley, 2014; Catungal et al., 2009;
Cameron and Coafee, 2005; Grodach, 2010,
2012, 2013; Mathews, 2014; Ponzini and
Rossi, 2010; Sasajima, 2013; Zukin and
Braslow, 2011).

In each of these scenarios, the arts –
whether clusters of artists, artistic businesses, arts facilities or arts districts – are
framed as changing the character of an area
and, in this way, are assumed to play a causal role in the gentrification process. While
this research provides important insights
into how the arts can facilitate place change,
it does not tell us if gentrification and displacement would have occurred without an arts
presence or the extent to which the arts generated change in relation to other factors.
While case studies document specific scenarios in particular places, they are not able to
establish if artistic activity in fact causes gentrification and displacement or if the arts
happen to locate in neighbourhoods that are
already attractive to higher income groups
and investors for other reasons. Without
studies of neighbourhoods with and without
an arts presence or those that control for
other influential factors, we do not know if
the arts actually cause gentrification and displacement or if they play other roles in
neighbourhood change.
Another gap in the literature is that most
case studies focus on gentrification in relation to artist residence rather commercial
arts activity and arts facilities. Given the
varying types of gentrification and arts activity (and the increase of arts-based economic
development strategies), it is likely that different forms of arts activity play multiple,
even conflicting roles in gentrification and
displacement within and between places. As
recent research highlights, different arts
activities exhibit different relationships to
neighbourhood change and some arts activity may be attracted to gentrifying or already
affluent areas. As Grodach et al. (2014)
show, while commercial arts industries are
associated with rapid gentrification, the fine
arts avoid such places and seek out slower
growth neighbourhoods with few signs of
gentrification. In New York City, Schuetz
(2014) and Schuetz and Green (2014) find

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Grodach et al.

5

that galleries tend to locate in affluent areas
with expensive housing and high levels of
amenities while Murdoch et al. (2016)
demonstrate similar results for nonprofit
arts organisations. The evidence is also not
clear as to if and how the arts are actually
connected to displacement. Research by
Stern and Seifert (2010) shows that arts clusters in neighbourhoods with high levels of
both poverty and professionals exhibit lower
poverty rates and increased housing values
over time without displacement. Foster et al.
(2016) similarly find that new arts organisations temper neighbourhood disadvantage.
Using industry data on arts establishments,
we test these possible arts-gentrificationdisplacement relationships in a large sample
of neighbourhoods and in different regional
contexts.

Modelling the relationship
between the arts, gentrification
and displacement1
Data
To analyse the relationships between arts
activity, arts growth, gentrification and
neighbourhood displacement, we study zip
codes in the 30 US Metropolitan Statistical
Areas (2013 definitions) with a population
over 2,000,000 between 2000 and 2013
(Appendix, Table A3). We study the largest
metros because on average they contain
larger pools of arts employment and possess
more neighbourhoods that experience gentrification compared to the majority of
smaller metros. We choose zip codes for our
analysis because gentrification and displacement are both processes that occur at the
neighbourhood-level and the zip code is the
smallest unit of analysis for which data on
arts establishments is available at the
national scale. Second, while zip codes
reflect postal routes rather than specific
units of geography, the census has developed

zip code tabulation areas (ZCTAs) to
approximate the geographical areas each zip
code route corresponds to. Thus, in addition
to the arts data discussed below, we can easily link census data to our sample of zip
codes. We use the 2000–2013 study period
because it allows us to capture recent significant rounds of property development before
and after the Great Recession. The limitation of this time period is that it does not
allow us to account for earlier waves of gentrification or gentrification that occurs over
a longer time period.

Variable creation
To measure gentrification and displacement,
we use data from the 2000 census, normalised to 2013 ZCTA boundaries using GIS,
and five-year estimates from the 2013
American Community Survey. As we note
above, we define gentrification as the process
by which neighbourhoods experiencing disinvestment experience an influx of capital and
of middle and upper class residents. Although
specific definitions of gentrification vary in
the literature, particular variables – income,
education, new housing construction and
housing value – are applied fairly consistently
in prior research to construct this definition
of gentrification. To model gentrification, we
follow Freeman’s (2005, 2009) established
approach and statistically distinguish neighbourhoods with the potential to gentrify from
others based on a set of features that are common across definitions of gentrification in the
literature. Specifically, a zip code has potential to gentrify if it has:



a median income in 2000 that is less than
the metro median in 2000; and
a percentage of new housing built in
1980 or later that is less than the metro
area average in 2000.

Next, from this pool of zip codes, we classify
those as gentrifying if they experience:

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Urban Studies
a growth (percent change) from 2000 to
2013 in the percent of the population
over 25 with a bachelor’s degree or
higher that is equal to or greater than
the metro area growth; and
an increase in median housing value
from 2000 to 2013.

We classify zip codes as gentrified if they
experience the requirements for gentrifying
and have either:



a median housing value in 2013 that is
greater than the metro average; or
a median household income in 2013 that
is greater than the metro average.

We thus define three neighbourhood categories, each of which corresponds to a different stage of gentrification.2 Importantly,
a zip code cannot reach the stage of gentrifying if it does not meet the requirements of
potential to gentrify. Similarly, a zip code
cannot be classified as gentrified if it does
not also meet the requirements of gentrifying
and potential to gentrify. Alongside these
categories, in the descriptive analysis we also
examine two types of neighbourhoods that
do not have a potential to gentrify. Affluent
neighbourhoods are those in the top 20% of
the metro’s median household income distribution. All remaining neighbourhoods that
are not affluent and do not have a potential
to gentrify at the start of the study period
we classify as no potential to gentrify.3 Data
on neighbourhood characteristics by each of
the five neighbourhood categories are available in the technical appendix (Tables A4
and A5).
To define displacement, we identify zip
codes that experienced a decrease in the number of poor persons from 2000 to 2013. This
approach follows that of the University of
California Berkeley’s Center for Community
Innovation (CCI), which uses the loss of low
income households in neighbourhoods with

otherwise stable populations as a proxy for
displacement. While CCI notes that these
conditions could instead indicate that lower
income households are moving into higher
income categories, their analysis indicates a
net increase in low income households over
the study period due to the Great Recession.
As a result, this approach may actually
underestimate displacement (Zuk, 2015).
Finally, following Grodach et al. (2014),
we create measures of two types of arts
establishments in 2000 – fine arts and commercial arts – and two measures of arts
growth from 2000 to 2013. The two categories of arts establishments are based on
industry establishment counts from the North
American Industrial Classification System
(NAICS) in the 2000 and 2013 zip code business patterns (ZBP) dataset provided by the
US Census Bureau. We define fine arts establishments in 2000 as the sum of NAICS establishment counts for theatre and performing
arts companies, museums, art galleries, independent artists and fine arts schools. We
define commercial arts establishments in 2000
as the sum of NAICS establishment counts
for film, music and design-related industries.
Lastly, in addition to the number of establishments in 2000, we also define growth in both
arts categories using the formula:


arts2013 + 1
;
ln
arts2000 + 1
where arts is the arts category, either fine
arts or commercial arts. This data set allows
us to study a range of establishments directly
engaged in artistic production across many
metros at the neighbourhood level. However,
although we include data on independent artists, the NAICS is not an ideal measure since
only those who report as artists to the IRS
are counted. That said, other work has found
significant location correlations between commercial arts establishments, arts organisations
and artists (Stern and Seifert, 2010).

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7

Regression model
Each of the above variables – gentrification,
displacement, fine arts and commercial arts
in 2000 and fine arts and commercial arts
growth – is included in a path analysis shown
in Appendix Figure A1 and in Figure 8 in
the regression results section. As the diagram
illustrates, the levels of fine and commercial
arts in 2000 are hypothesised to predict gentrification, displacement and future arts
growth. Gentrification is hypothesised to
predict displacement and arts growth, and
displacement is hypothesised to predict arts
growth. Each pathway in the model has an
associated coefficient that indicates the relationship between the independent and
dependent variables. We use maximum likelihood estimation to obtain the model parameters and specify standard errors that are
robust to non-normal distributions and nonindependence of observations. The appendix
elaborates on the equations used in the study
to estimate the model, and includes more
detailed model results.
In our discussion of the results below we
simplify the models’ interpretation by presenting the coefficients in terms of positives
and negatives, with positives indicating a
positive association between the independent
variable and the dependent variable, and
negatives indicating the reverse. Full results
are available in the Appendix, Table A8.

Control variables
Our model captures the stage theory of gentrification, which suggests that the arts move
to lower income neighbourhoods and in turn
spur successive waves of gentrification, and
the theory that gentrification and displacement may alternatively spur growth in the
arts. Since both of these processes are estimated simultaneously, our approach allows
a more nuanced study of the relationship
between arts, gentrification and displacement than previously conducted. The model,

however, does not account for all factors
that may be associated with an arts presence,
gentrification and displacement, which may
confound significant results. To address this,
we test the model with a set of control variables related to population, neighbourhood
and built environment characteristics that
prior work (e.g. Grodach et al., 2014;
Woronkowicz, 2016) has found to be important in arts-related neighbourhood change
(Appendix, pp. 2–4).4

Region models
In addition to our primary research questions, we ask the following secondary question: Do the relationships between arts,
gentrification and displacement, and arts
growth differ depending on region? To
address this question, we run the above
model separately for four diverse regions:
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA;
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI; DallasFort Worth-Arlington, TX; and Los AngelesLong Beach-Anaheim, CA.
These metropolitan areas are ideal study
units because they possess different regional
and arts industry characteristics that allow
more contextualised results, as well as a sufficient number of observations (zip codes)
for analysis. Los Angeles and New York are
established hubs of arts industry activity in
terms of employment size and concentration.
Chicago ranks third in the US in terms of
arts industry employment, but has only an
average employment concentration (LQ),
while Dallas contains a sizeable employment
base but a very small concentration of
employment (Grodach, 2016). New York
and particularly Los Angeles contain very
high numbers of arts establishments per
neighbourhood while Chicago is roughly
average and Dallas is well below the average
in the study population. Moreover, whereas
arts growth rates are very small or negative
in the latter metros, Los Angeles and New

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30
25
No potential to gentrify
20

Potential to gentrify

15

Gentrifying
Gentrified

10

Affluent
5
0
Fine Art

Commercial Art

Figure 1. Average number of fine and commercial arts establishments by neighbourhood type, 2000.

York exceed average metro growth rates by
20% or more (see Appendix, Table A7). The
model, however, does not account for all
factors that may be associated with an arts
presence, gentrification and displacement,
which may confound significant results. In
sum, Los Angeles and New York are established arts regions with large numbers, high
concentrations and large growth of the arts
during the study period. Dallas represents
the other end of the spectrum and Chicago
represents a more mixed arts industry context. Examining arts-gentrification patterns
in these different contexts help us to understand nuances within the results based on
the entire study population.

Descriptive statistics: Art,
gentrification and displacement
The descriptive statistics provide a portrait
of the relationship between the arts, gentrification and displacement that adds to the
complexity of the standard arts-led gentrification narrative. Our analysis indicates that
fine and commercial arts industries tend to
locate in more upscale areas and, if they do
trigger gentrification and displacement, it is
less likely to occur in predominately low
income areas than in those neighbourhoods
where gentrification is highly accelerated

and affluence is already present. The results
also show that displacement is not limited to
gentrifying areas, a phenomenon we explore
in relation to the arts below.

30 metro statistics
Contrary to the gentrification literature, fine
and commercial arts establishments are least
common in gentrifying neighbourhoods
and those with the potential to gentrify
(Figure 1). However, the commercial arts
were sizably concentrated in areas that gentrified over the study period yet these areas
account for just 12% of all study areas. This
could indicate that a commercial arts presence helps to encourage a process of rapid
upscaling. However, they also make a strong
showing in affluent areas, indicating that
they may be attracted to and can afford
higher rent areas. This assumption is reinforced by the fine arts, which exhibit a similar preference, but are most common in
affluent areas. Still, both the fine and commercial arts are also common in areas we
classify as having no potential to gentrify –
those that were well-off but not defined as
affluent at the start of the study period.
About 24% of all areas in the study experienced potential displacement. As we would
expect, signs of displacement are most

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Grodach et al.

9

50

50

40
30

40
All neighborhoods

20
10

30

All neighborhoods

20
Neighborhoods with
displacement

0

10

Neighborhoods with
displacement

0

Figure 2. Average number of fine arts establishments (left) and commercial arts establishments (right) by
neighbourhood type, 2000.

160%
140%
120%
100%
80%
60%
40%
20%
0%

All neighborhoods
Neighborhoods with
displacement

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
-10%

All neighborhoods
Neighborhoods with
displacement

Figure 3. Average percent growth of fine arts establishments (left) and commercial arts establishments
(right) by neighbourhood type, 2000–2013.

common in gentrifying and gentrified areas,
but those we label as affluent exhibit notable
displacement as well (Appendix, Table A5).
However, when we isolate the displacement
neighbourhoods from the total sample, the
arts remain weakest in areas suspected to be
gentrifying (Figure 2). Also, an arts presence
in higher income neighbourhoods with
potential displacement stands out. In fact,
the fine arts are nearly four times more concentrated in higher income places with signs
of displacement than in those without. In
other words, the highest concentrations of
arts establishments are in places that are
already wealthy and becoming increasingly
segregated by wealth.
Examining the growth of arts establishments reinforces this finding. The fine arts
exhibit stronger growth where signs of displacement are present in all neighbourhood
types except those without gentrification

potential (Figure 3). Growth is strongest in
gentrified and affluent areas, and regardless
of displacement status. This indicates that
the fine arts are attracted to these higher
rent markets or that initial arts establishments are replaced by more upscale arts
activities at a faster rate over the study
period. The commercial arts show basically
the same pattern with one key difference –
they are on the decline in affluent neighbourhoods (Figure 3). Alongside the trends
above, this distinction is important because
it potentially indicates that commercial arts
establishments are leaving affluent areas and
contributing to the rapid upscaling of gentrified places.

Metro-specific trends
Trends in the four metropolitan areas generally align with the overall patterns, in that

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Urban Studies

Figure 4. Average number of Chicago fine and commercial arts establishments by neighbourhood type.

Figure 5. Average number of Dallas fine and commercial arts establishments by neighbourhood type.

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Grodach et al.

11

Figure 6. Average number of Los Angeles fine and commercial arts establishments by neighbourhood type.

arts establishments predominately locate
and grow in wealthier areas. Mirroring overall results, the arts are generally weakest in
the gentrifying areas and those with the
potential to gentrify. There are some notable
exceptions. These are perhaps a reflection of
the high variation in the average number
and growth of arts establishments between
these metros.
As in the full study, in Chicago and
Dallas, the arts are least common in areas
that are gentrifying and that possess the
potential to gentrify (Figures 4 and 5). Yet,
we also find that areas which gentrified during the study period generally held and
gained the largest numbers of arts establishments. This is especially notable in Dallas
where just five areas gentrified. In contrast
to the overall results, however, arts establishments are far less common in affluent
areas. This may indicate that cost pressures
in affluent areas are a barrier and push them
towards those that gentrified since 2000. In

turn, it could signal that the arts play a role
in the rapid upscaling of such places or that
they move to seek out other areas where
incomes are growing.
Los Angeles and New York (Figures 6
and 7) reveal contrasting dynamics compared to the other metros. In Los Angeles,
the fine arts show by far the highest concentration and growth in the metro’s nine affluent areas. The commercial arts are strong
but stagnant there and, by the end of the
study period, gentrified areas contain the
highest concentrations. New York stands
out because the highest arts concentrations
are in areas with no potential to gentrify
(though there is noticeable growth in gentrified areas as well). In other words, arts
industries are more dispersed within New
York rather than concentrated predominately in gentrified or affluent areas.
Figures 4–7 also highlight that there is
not a significant difference in the location or
growth of arts industries based on

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Urban Studies

Figure 7. Average number of New York fine and commercial arts establishments by neighbourhood type.

neighbourhood displacement status. In Los
Angeles and New York, arts industries are
more numerous and growing slightly faster
in areas with potential displacement. While
Dallas’ commercial arts establishments
favoured displacement areas, they are on the
decline there. However, the region also experienced an overall decline in arts establishments during the study period.
In summary, the descriptive statistics
show that arts industries are largely located
and growing fastest in gentrified and higher
income places. In most metros, they also
tend to have higher numbers in places where
displacement occurs. However, based on
these results, we cannot say whether the arts
drive gentrification and displacement or are
attracted to more upscale areas where displacement might occur. In the next section,
we control for neighbourhood conditions to
determine how the arts may impact gentrification and displacement.

Regression results: Are arts
industries linked with
gentrification and displacement?
Overall, the regression models indicate that
arts industries generally do not play a significant role in gentrification and displacement.
The presence of commercial arts establishments does increase the likelihood of gentrification, but only weakly. A fine arts presence,
on the other hand, has a negative yet insignificant relationship to gentrification. Neither
fine arts nor commercial arts appear to have
a direct relationship with displacement.
Moreover, the regression analyses show that
contextual differences and type of art matter
in relation to these neighbourhood pressures.
Figure 8 shows the direct relationships
between the arts, gentrification and displacement based on the path analysis. Table 1
shows the basic results for the models used
to estimate the total effects (direct and

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Grodach et al.

13

Figure 8. The relationship between arts, gentrification and displacement: Direct effects (full results in
Appendix, Table A7).

Table 1. The relationship between arts, gentrification and displacement: Significance and direction of total
effects (full results in Appendix, Table A8).

 Gentrification
1. Fine arts establishments
2. Commercial arts establishments
 Displacement
3. Fine arts establishments
4. Commercial arts establishments
5. Gentrification
 Fine arts growth
6. Gentrification
7. Displacement
 Commercial arts growth
8. Gentrification
9. Displacement
Covariance of arts growth variables
N
R2finegrow
R2comgrow
Pseudo R2disp
Pseudo R2gent

All metros

Chicago

Dallas

+
+

+

+

Los Angeles

New York

+
–
+

+

+
+

+

+

+

+
+

+

+

+

+

+

+
996
0.14
0.13
0.15
0.08

46
0.24
0.14
0.19
0.29

52
0.22
0.29
0.21
0.15

+
77
0.13
0.07
0.06
0.05

+
106
0.18
0.11
0.03
0.01

Notes: + significant positive coefficient; – significant negative coefficient; blank = insignificant coefficient. Estimate is
considered significant if p \ 0.1.

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Urban Studies

indirect) of these relationships for neighbourhoods in each of the four regions compared to neighbourhoods in all 30 regions.
The models indicate that a fine arts presence
does not increase the likelihood of either
gentrification or displacement in the 30
metros overall (Table 1, rows 1 and 3 respectively). In contrast, an increase in the presence of commercial arts establishments
increases the likelihood of gentrification by
0.29. However, the relationship between the
commercial arts and displacement is insignificant. These findings are in line with prior
research (Grodach et al., 2014). However,
the results suggest that although the commercial arts may catalyse gentrification, displacement is not inextricably linked to the
presence of the arts. Rather, it is important
to recognise that the arts are just one of many
other complex factors that account for gentrification and that any subsequent displacement is
likely due to other dimensions. In fact, given
the very low R2 (0.08) for gentrification in the
full model, we are likely only accounting for a
small slice of factors that explain the gentrification process. The model does do a better job at
predicting where displacement may occur (R2
= 0.15).
The individual metro results reveal important contextual differences in the relationship
of the arts to gentrification and displacement. Interestingly, it is in the metros that
have fewer arts establishments and a lower
proportion of neighbourhoods experiencing
gentrification where the link between gentrification and the arts is present. The fine arts
have a significant effect on gentrification in
Chicago and Dallas but not in Los Angeles
and New York (Table 1, row 1). The commercial arts have a significant effect on gentrification only in Chicago. Moreover, the
models explain considerably more of the variation in gentrification and displacement in
these two metros than they do in the major
art hubs (the R2 is 0.29 and 0.15 for gentrification and 0.19 and 0.21 for displacement for

Chicago and Dallas respectively). While we
would expect the process to be more widespread in Los Angeles and New York given
their sizable arts concentrations and competitive real estate markets, we do not find a
significant relationship. Instead, the artsgentrification link is strongest, though by no
means primary, when the arts are specifically
concentrated in a handful of gentrified areas,
as the descriptive statistics reveal for Chicago
and especially Dallas. In contrast, in Los
Angeles and New York where the arts are
more dispersed throughout the different
types of neighbourhoods, gentrification is
driven predominately by other factors.
The individual metro results tell little in
terms of displacement. All results are insignificant with the exception of those in New
York. Here, in contrast to the overall
results, the fine arts have a significant effect
on displacement and the commercial arts
have a negative association. The fact that
these results exactly oppose that of the 30
metros overall may be due to New York’s
highly concentrated and diverse arts sector
that sets it apart from most places. Still, the
low R2 for gentrification (0.01) and displacement (0.03) in New York suggests that the
arts are very weak predictors of these forms
of neighbourhood change. The contrast with
the classic case studies of artist-induced gentrification and displacement, many of which
were conducted in New York, is significant
(c.f. Deutsche and Ryan, 1984; Zukin,
1982). Considering New York City’s continued investment in art facilities such as the
construction of the new Whitney Museum
and the Brooklyn Cultural District, it is possible that this relationship between the fine
arts and displacement may be partly driven
by explicit economic development strategies,
as opposed to the presence of the arts
themselves.
Examining the relationships from the
other direction, the model indicates that in
the 30 metros, gentrification predicts the

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Grodach et al.

15

growth of fine and commercial arts establishments (Table 1, rows 6 and 8). In other
words, while arts growth does occur in the
context of gentrification, an arts presence is
not driving the relationship. Rather, gentrified environments lead to arts growth. This
holds for results across the four metros, with
the exception of New York fine arts where
the relationship is insignificant.
Neighbourhoods with potential displacement similarly predict fine arts establishment
growth in the 30-metro sample, yet in our
four metros this phenomenon is only significant for the fine arts in New York. As
growth in fine arts appears to have been
concentrated in higher income areas, these
findings suggest that arts establishments are
locating in already upscale neighbourhoods
that are only becoming wealthier. Further,
this may be due to explicit arts-oriented
development projects as discussed above.
Yet, again, the R2 for displacement is quite
low. As such, results indicate that although
the arts are attracted to places that are
upgrading, the association with displacement is not clear-cut.
Finally, the metro analysis reveals divergent relationships between gentrification
and displacement that are worth considering
compared to the full study. Namely, gentrification has a significant effect on displacement
only in Dallas (Table 1, row 5). However, as
noted above, of the four metros under study,
Dallas has few areas where these neighbourhood change processes occur – five neighbourhoods gentrified and about 10 (out of 92
neighbourhoods) experienced potential displacement during the study period. In other
words, although gentrification and displacement are linked in Dallas, the process is confined to a few areas. As we note above, an
overarching arts-displacement relationship is
insignificant in Dallas. However, because gentrification is confined to a few neighbourhoods, the arts may have more of an impact
on bidding up real estate values and, in the

near future, pricing out lower income residents and businesses in these individual
places. In contrast, given that New York has
more neighbourhoods undergoing gentrification and more arts establishments prefer gentrified spaces, the process is likely more
widespread, as a large literature has demonstrated. But, in contrast to the standard narrative, given our results, it is more likely that
arts establishments are attracted to rather
than cause gentrification here.

Conclusion
This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the relationship between the arts,
gentrification, and displacement. Chiefly, we
provide evidence that the standard artsgentrification narrative is not a generalised
pattern, but rather one possible way that the
arts are implicated in place change. By going
beyond the focus on the role of artists in
gentrification, this study adds a new dimension to understanding how the arts affect
place change and provides an important corrective to the stage model of gentrification.
The analysis demonstrates that fine and
commercial arts establishments have varied,
conflicting relationships with gentrification
and displacement in different places. In particular, arts-led urban policy (the apotheosis
of the stage model) breaks down because, as
our results demonstrate, arts establishments
by and large do not predict gentrification.
Given that the arts have become considerably more diverse in their economic and
social impacts and their participants, our
findings provide a significant contribution
to understanding these wider dynamics.
Overall, gentrifying areas actually have
the weakest arts presence of all neighbourhood types in the study. While commercial
arts establishments have a strong share in
those areas that gentrified over the study
period, they are equally represented in
places that show no potential to gentrify.

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Urban Studies

The fine arts are most numerous in affluent
areas and those without potential to gentrify. Both the fine arts and commercial
arts do exhibit the highest growth rates in
gentrifying and gentrified places and these
rates are highest where there are signs of
displacement. Yet, our path analysis shows
that it is more likely that certain arts establishments are attracted to these environments rather than creating them. In short,
the arts likely do not play a causal role in
gentrification and displacement.
Rather, the typical process is often turned
on its head – instead of sparking gentrification, arts establishments are most numerous
in places that are well-off and upscaling.
One could argue that this is because they
have already contributed to gentrifying their
locations. However, if they play a role in the
standard arts-gentrification narrative, then
we should also see the movement of this arts
activity to lower rent areas where gentrification and displacement continue anew. We
largely do not. Arts growth is very small in
places that are gentrifying or exhibit the
potential to gentrify, particularly for the
commercial arts. This indicates that many
arts establishments want to be near their clients, whether it is the patron base of a gallery, or a design firm that serves a
technology or advertising company, rather
than simply seeking out cheap rent.
These patterns largely hold in the four
metros we study individually, but with an
interesting deviation. It is the concentration of
arts activity in particular neighbourhoods in
regions where the arts and gentrification are
less widespread that explains arts-led gentrification. As we show, an arts industry presence
predicts gentrification in Chicago and Dallas,
but not in Los Angeles and New York as we
would expect. We surmise this is because of
the concentrated nature of gentrification outside all but the largest, most expensive metros,
thus magnifying an arts-gentrification effect.
As such, it is not the size or concentration of

regional arts activity in combination with a
competitive real estate market that explains
arts-related gentrification.
These findings provide an important lesson to policymakers who seek to use the arts
and creative industries in place-based revitalisation programs. Given that arts establishments cluster amongst linked industries and
their customer base, it is folly to assume policy can seed arts establishments and produce
place improvements. Nor, however, is it
likely that arts-led strategies will engender
gentrification and displacement. The caveat
to this is that regions without highly concentrated arts activity are more likely to experience gentrification through the arts in those
few places with highly concentrated arts
industries. In such instances in particular,
policy should attend to potential displacement pressures.
Declaration of conflicting interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of
interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.

Funding
Funding for this research was generously provided by the National Endowment for the Arts
(Grant 12-3800-7004).

Notes
1. Due to space restrictions, a technical appendix containing a detailed description of all
data, descriptive statistics related to model
variables and neighbourhood characteristics,
as well as regression methodologies is available at: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/101715/.
2. Researchers replicating our definitions of gentrification should be careful if their sample
includes a large number of rural zip codes
(our sample does not). The definitions we use
could classify developing rural areas as gentrifying even though they would not have suffered from the disinvestment that provides
the context for gentrification.

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Grodach et al.

17

3. Although Freeman’s approach distinguishes
between neighbourhoods with potential to
gentrify and neighbourhoods experiencing
gentrification, it does not distinguish between
neighbourhoods that have never experienced
gentrification and those in which gentrification occurred at a period prior to the study
period. Affluent neighbourhoods may have
experienced gentrification at some point prior
to the study period and increases in affluence
in the study period could thus be extensions
of that process. Despite these limitations, the
definitions clearly distinguish between neighbourhoods that are experiencing gentrification during the study period and those that
are not. This allows for a statistically rigorous
examination of the relationship between the
arts, gentrification and displacement.
4. The presence of arts or gentrification in surrounding zip codes is an important factor that
we do not consider in this study. Future work
may wish to investigate this issue.

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