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Cleveland Fed study examines neighborhood change in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh

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Using demographic and housing information, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland researcher Kyle Fee develops neighborhood typologies to examine changes in neighborhoods in the four largest cities in the Fourth Federal Reserve District: Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fee’s analysis, Neighborhood Change in the Fourth Federal Reserve District: A Multivariate Approach, shows that from 1970 to 2010, most neighborhoods tended to remain unchanged from decade to decade. However, the overall rate of neighborhood change has increased in all four of the cities during the past two decades. “Cincinnati and Pittsburgh experienced the greatest change from the 1990s to the 2000s, while Cleveland has the highest number of gentrifying neighborhoods in the 2000s,” says Fee.

The researcher finds that the most common type of neighborhood change in three of the four cities studied was neighborhood churning, i.e., where a neighborhood retains its home value and household income levels while experiencing demographic changes.

Other findings from the study:

  • Each city has its own unique set of neighborhoods. Low–income neighborhoods of various types account for almost 50 percent of neighborhoods in Cleveland and Columbus, compared to 27.9 percent in Pittsburgh and 20.7 percent in Cincinnati. The opposite is true for middle–income neighborhoods, with 61.3 percent of Cincinnati and 49.3 percent of Pittsburgh middle income. In terms of high–income neighborhoods, Fee says Columbus stands out at 23.3 percent compared to the lower teens for the other three cities.
  • In all four cities, roughly 80 percent of the neighborhoods experienced no change from decade to decade during the past 40 years. “Pittsburgh has the highest rate of neighborhood change at 20.2 percent, and Cleveland has the lowest at 17.0 percent,” says Fee.
  • Individual neighborhood change rates indicate neighborhoods of stability and change. In Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, white high–income neighborhoods are the most stable, while the most stable neighborhoods in Cleveland and Columbus are African American low–income neighborhoods. Low income neighborhoods are the most likely to change in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, whereas it is white high–income neighborhoods in Columbus and middle-income neighborhoods in Cincinnati that are most likely to change.
  • Neighborhood change rates have increased in all four cities during the 2000s, but to varying degrees. Neighborhood change rates are up from the 1990s by almost 15 percentage points in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but by only 3 to 4 percentage points in Columbus and Cleveland.
  • “Churning” is the most common type of neighborhood change found in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh during the 2000s, while “declining” (declines in home values and household income levels) is the most common type of change found in Columbus.
  • Neighborhood changes during the last 40 years are consistent with a lack of affordable housing for low–income populations. “Even though gentrification comprises a small share of neighborhood outcomes, declines in low–income neighborhoods across the four cities are suggestive of a lack of affordable housing,” says Fee. Cincinnati had the largest decline of low–income neighborhoods at 22.5 percentage points, followed by Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cleveland.

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