Adolescent experiences of gentrification and displacement in Austin

Date

2020-08-03

Authors

Scott, Michael Reid

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Abstract

Gentrification is the process whereby an urban community is reinvested and redeveloped, often promoted through neoliberal urban policies. This results in an area with a higher average household income and, typically, a higher percentage of white residents. However, this phenomenon also affects the longstanding residents who face displacement due to raised taxes, increased rent, or rezoning and redevelopment. Displaced residents then move to other communities, often the suburbs with cheaper rent and taxes. Some emerging research and media stories also suggest that when residents are displaced, their new communities offer a lower quality of life with fewer community amenities. Given the rapid increase in gentrification across the United States, this likely invokes a systematic increase in the rate of adolescent mobility from their neighborhoods and schools. The study is conceptualized through the understanding that displacement by gentrification may affect adolescents in the following ways: social-emotional effects and place attachment, social relationships, community opportunities, and school opportunities. I first contextualize gentrification and displacement in Austin through GIS analysis and conversations with public servants in the schools and communities. Then, following a qualitative interview research design, I conduct responsive interviews with five adolescents who were displaced by gentrification and their parents. Findings suggest that adolescents experience gentrification-driven displacement in Austin in several ways. Some move several times as a result of their parents trying to maintain a sense of community. Other adolescents return to Austin for extracurricular activities to maintain their community despite moving. Three of the adolescents moved to mobile home communities located away from Austin, even though their parents continued to work in the city. Although there were varied school experiences, including facing bullying and problems with language education, they used their social networks and technology to overcome obstacles. This display of resilience helped to mitigate the more painful experiences related to displacement. This study contributes to the literature on gentrification and education in several ways. First, it defines the construct of “student displacement.” This is an understudied resulting effect of gentrification for adolescents. Second, it emphasizes student voice. As students are the most important members of a school community, understanding their perspectives will help make better informed policy and practice decisions. This study provides a critical perspective of a neoliberal and neocolonial logic permeating schools and communities globally. These perspectives should be used to help inform coordinated policy and practice decisions related to education and urban planning

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