Have you ever found yourself eating a maple bacon donut on a Citi Bike en route to Whole Foods after an exhausting yoga session and wondering: Am I a gentrifier?
No, you don’t need to love wine bars, dog parks, and bike lanes to be a gentrifier. (And anyone can love these things!) To the people who study gentrification, it’s more about where you live and how much you earn. Gentrifiers are people with medium or high incomes moving into low-income neighborhoods, attracting new business but raising rents, and often contributing to tensions between new and long-term residents. Sociologists coined the term, which alludes to the European gentry—and which has only become more loaded at a time of skyrocketing rents and profound demographic changes in American cities.
But are you a gentrifier? With the help of an urban policy expert, we devised a calculator that determines if you are based on your income and neighborhood. Try it out below:
Keep in mind that researchers have defined and measured gentrification in a variety of ways. To find a useful formula for this calculator, we got in touch with Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of public policy and urban planning at New York University. Most experts consider a neighborhood to be gentrifiable if its incomes are in the bottom half or quarter of the income distribution of a metropolitan area, she explained in an email to Slate. If the incomes of such a neighborhood are rising faster than incomes citywide, the area is undergoing gentrification. Some researchers have traced changes in educational or racial demographics as proxies for gentrification. For the purposes of this calculator, Ellen suggested this formula: If your neighborhood’s median income is lower than the median income of your city, and your income is higher than your city’s median, you’re a gentrifier.
After some testing using data from the American Community Survey, we calibrated the formula for gentrifiable neighborhoods to include areas with less than 1.3 times the metropolitan area’s median income, because some metropolitan areas have a median income that would already be considered low. And we decided to ask you for your ZIP code, not your street address. The calculator does have limitations—there might be several neighborhoods of varying affluence in a single ZIP code—but it should nevertheless help you understand how you fit into your area socioeconomically. And remember: Whether you’re a gentrifier or not, you should always strive to be a good neighbor.
Update, July 31, 2015: After user feedback, we updated this calculator to compare users' incomes with the median incomes of their metropolitan areas, not their counties. The calculator and article have been updated to reflect this.