Waiting for Bobos: displacement and impeded gentrification in a midwestern city

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Billingham, Chase M.

Billingham, C. M. (2017), Waiting for Bobos: Displacement and Impeded Gentrification in a Midwestern City. City & Community, 16: 145–168


The degree to which lower-income residents are displaced by the process of gentrification has been the subject of considerable debate. Displacement is generally framed as a possible, and potentially remediable, outcome of gentrification. This portrayal of the link between gentrification and displacement is problematic, though, because gentrification can proceed without substantial displacement, while displacement frequently occurs in the absence of gentrification. In this article, I use a historical case study to examine the link between displacement and gentrification. Drawing on archival research and media accounts of redevelopment over the course of 50 years in Wichita, Kansas, I demonstrate how a displacement-first strategy has characterized all attempts to transform the city's skid row into the hub of a gentrified downtown core, and I describe how, despite widespread displacement, the gentrification of downtown Wichita has been largely unsuccessful. I discuss the implications of these findings for sociological theories of gentrification and displacement.

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