Abstract: Residential Mobility and Neighborhood Change: New evidence and implications for community initiatives (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12081 Residential Mobility and Neighborhood Change: New evidence and implications for community initiatives

Friday, January 15, 2010: 3:30 PM
Pacific Concourse A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Claudia Coulton, PhD , Case Western Reserve University, Professor, Cleveland, OH
Brett Theodos , The Urban Institute, Research Assistant, Washington, DC
Margery Turner , The Urban Institute, Vice President, Washington, DC
Purpose: The recognition that place matters has led to several generations of community initiatives that attempt to address conditions in poor neighborhoods by changing them from within. However, high levels of residential mobility are seen as a challenge for this work. While high levels of residential turnover arguably undermine social cohesiveness, the fact is that moving or staying in place can be either positive or negative for households depending on the mix of push and pull factors affecting the decision. Moreover, selective out or in migration may change the neighborhood as a whole for better or worse. The purpose of this study is to determine how residential mobility functions for both households and neighborhoods in a set of places that were part of a community change initiative

Methods: The data come from two waves of interviews with approximately 4000 randomly selected households from low-income neighborhoods in ten cities (Denver, Des Moines, Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oakland, Providence, San Antonio, White Center/Seattle) that were part of Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections program The sampling design allowed for estimation of both household level and neighborhood level change. Survey questions identified push and pull factors theoretically related to residential mobility. Using a K-Means cluster analysis, we classified mover, stayer and newcomer households into types, reflecting the mix of positive and negative influences on their mobility decisions. Neighborhood economic change between the two waves of the survey was estimated using OLS with robust standard errors and then decomposed into two components: 1. Change due to improved or worsening status of stayers, and 2. Differences between movers and newcomers.

Results: At the household level, the cluster analysis revealed three types of Movers (Up and Out, 30%; Churning in place, 46%; Nearby attached, 24%), Stayers (Positive (47%),Tenuous/ Dissatisfied, 22%; Long-term/stuck, 31%), and Newcomers ( Positive, 40%; Dissatisfied renters, 36%; Low income retirees, 24%). At the neighborhood level, about half the neighborhoods changed in their economic status, most often driven by newcomers who were better or worse off than the movers they replaced. In only a few instances did stayers change enough in their economic status to drive significant neighborhood change.

Implications: Residential mobility can be positive or negative for households depending on the mix of push and pull factors in the decision. Likewise staying in place may be a sign of household stability and satisfaction or due to being stuck and unable to relocate. Recognizing these distinctions, community change initiatives should attempt to reduce residential churning that is due to negative factors while at the same time enabling those who are stuck in negative residential circumstances to make positive moves. To be successful, community initiatives aimed at reducing neighborhood poverty and promoting mixed income need to focus both on creating economic opportunities for stayers and attracting newcomers for whom the neighborhood is a community of choice.