An Exploration of Gentrification of the Magic City: A Spatial Analysis of Birmingham, AL

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Fowlkes, Antionette
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Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE)
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) is a comprehensive forum on issues of race and ethnicity at Iowa State University and beyond. The local conference is designed to model the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE).

ISCORE seeks to bring the more salient ideas and concepts of the national conference to Iowa State University, add local perspectives, and

  • Develop and enhance ISU student, faculty, and staff awareness of racial and ethnic issues in higher education around the country.
  • Continue to promote addressing multiculturalism in the classroom and in American higher education.
  • Make information, regarding issues of race and ethnicity, accessible to the entire university community and support the university's ongoing efforts.

Birmingham, Alabama, once the most segregated city in the nation, is now experiencing an economic revival linked to capital investments, influx of high-income groups that has caused the displacement of low-income groups as part of social upgrade and landscape change. These changes result in an ongoing gentrification of the city. To study the processes that have led to this change, I analyzed the socioeconomic characteristics and transportation trends from 1980 to 2010, and explored the impacts of changing neighborhoods on access to public transportation. Using a case study approach, I will: (1) provide historical context of the city; (2) spatially identify urban core minority communities through changes in census data; (3) ascertain changes in socioeconomic characteristics associated with gentrification; (4) determine the economic development strategies at work in the urban core; and (5) utilize transportation data from 1980-2010 to visualize changes in public transportation networks and how this relates to socioeconomics.

I hypothesize that, by focusing on a single city, we can identify a relationship between socioeconomic characteristics and access to public transportation, and that gentrification in the urban core and in neighborhoods closer to transportation lines results in reduced numbers in ridership. I also hypothesize that the communities that are gentrifying do not have and have not had access to public transportation because the Birmingham Transit Authority has not invested in providing service to gentrified communities.