Gentrifying the Magic City: A Spatial Analysis of Birmingham, AL 1980 -2010
Birmingham, Alabama, once among the most segregated cities in the nation, is now experiencing an economic revival driven by capital reinvestment into the physical fabric of neighborhoods and an influx of educated, higher-income residents. While positive in some respects, research suggests that urban revival is often accompanied by less positive change, including the displacement of low-income groups, many of them minority. This physical and social restructuring suggests the process of gentrification is at work within Alabama's largest city. The goal of this study is to explore the complex demographic dimensions of this change. Using geographic information system (GIS) technology and a case study approach, it analyzes Birmingham’s census tracts over the thirty-year period from 1980 to 2010 in order to: ascertain the nature of the change in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics; determine which neighborhoods showed signs of gentrification during the study period; and provide recommendations on ways to mitigate gentrification's negative impacts on vulnerable populations.