Changes in the economic status of neighbourhoods in US metropolitan areas from 1980 to 2010: Stability, growth and polarisation


In this paper we move away from a static view of neighbourhood inequality and investigate the dynamics of neighbourhood economic status, which ties together spatial income inequality at different moments in time. Using census data from three decades (1980–2010) in 294 metropolitan statistical areas, we use a statistical decomposition method to unpack the aggregate spatiotemporal income dynamic into its contributing components: stability, growth and polarisation, providing a new look at the economic fortunes of diverse neighbourhoods. We examine the relative strength of each component in driving the overall pattern, in addition to whether, how, and why these forces wax and wane across space and over time. Our results show that over the long run, growth is a dominant form of change across all metros, but there is a very clear decline in its prominence over time. Further, we find a growing positive relationship between the components of dispersion and growth, in a reversal of prior trends. Looking across metro areas, we find temporal heterogeneity has been driven by different socioeconomic factors over time (such as sectoral growth in certain decades), and that these relationships vary enormously with geography and time. Together these findings suggest a high level of temporal heterogeneity in neighbourhood income dynamics, a phenomenon which remains largely unexplored in the current literature. There is no universal law governing the changing economic status of neighbourhoods in the US over the last 40 years, and our work demonstrates the importance of considering shifting dynamics over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Urban Studies