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Publication Date


Publication Title

Int J Environ Res Public Health


Introduction: Increases in industrialization and manufacturing have led to worsening pollution in some components of air quality. In addition, gentrification is occurring in large cities throughout the world. As these socioeconomic and demographic changes occur, there have been no studies examining the association of gentrification with air quality. To investigate this association, we studied the trends of gentrification, changes in racial distribution and changes in air quality in each zip code of a large urban county over a 40-year period.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective longitudinal study over 40 years in Wayne County, Michigan using socioeconomic and demographic data from the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) and air quality data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To assess gentrification, longitudinal analyses were performed to examine median household income, percentage with a college education, median housing value, median gross rent and employment level. The racial distribution was evaluated in each zip code during the time period. Gentrification was studied in relation to air quality using nonparametric 2-sample Wilcon-Mann-Whitney tests and Binomial Generalized Linear Regression models.

Results: Although air quality improved overall over the 40-year period, there was a lesser rate of improvement in gentrified areas. Furthermore, gentrification was strongly associated with racial distribution. The most substantial gentrification occurred from 2010 to 2020, in which a specific cluster of adjacent zip codes in downtown Detroit experienced intense gentrification and a drop in the percentage of African-American residents.

Conclusions: Gentrified areas seem to have a less pronounced improvement in air quality over time. This reduction in air quality improvement is likely associated with demolitions and the construction of new buildings, such as sporting arenas and accompanying traffic density. Gentrification is also strongly associated with an increase in non-minority residents in an area. Although previous definitions of gentrification in the literature have not included racial distribution, we suggest that future definitions should include this metric given the strong association. Minority residents who are displaced as a result of gentrification do not experience the improvements in housing quality, accessibility to healthy foods and other associations of gentrification.

Medical Subject Headings

Humans; United States; Retrospective Studies; Longitudinal Studies; Residential Segregation; Air Pollution; Income

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