Urban Review: Census Ruling, Gentrification Scholarship and HISD's Next Steps


This week, what the latest ruling means for the 2020 census, reflecting on decades of gentrification research, an op-ed from Houston school district board members on a tough decision and more.

Townhouse gentrification mural

This week, what the latest ruling means for the 2020 census, reflecting on decades of gentrification research, an op-ed from Houston school district board members on a tough decision and more.

Title Page

Ruling on Citizenship Question May Save the 2020 Census. Brookings.


Fed Says Student Debt Has Hurt the U.S. Housing Market. Wall Street Journal.

Homeownership among people ages 24 to 32 fell 9 percentage points, to 36% from 45%, between 2005 and 2014, the Fed said. While many factors affected the homeowner rate, the Fed said 2 percentage points, or about a fifth, of the decline was tied directly to student debt. That translated into 400,000 borrowers who could have owned a home by 2014 but didn’t because of student loans.

Executive Summary

There's been several decades-worth of research on gentrification now. But finding a consensus from the literature can be difficult. Reflecting on the many studies that have addressed or touched on gentrification over the years, Mark Davidson, associate professor at Clark University, put together a list of several works published in the journal Urban Geography to help reflect on what he described as "a state-led process of class-based urban restructuring implemented at increasing scale and scope"

In looking back at some of the many articles on the topic, Davidson said two themes emerged. First, he said, he hoped the articles might frame conversations around how the process of gentrification is connected, or perhaps not, to cycles of investment.

"After almost a decade of economic recovery, few have dared to let the good times roll. Despite a historical run of economic growth, cities have remained fiscally cautious and most housing markets recovered slowly from the 2007-10 decline. There are many reasons for this, profound income and wealth inequality being those most often mentioned. Yet if any urban phenomenon has bucked this trend, it is gentrification.

And second, he said, he hoped to show the range of research conducted on the topic.

Gentrification scholarship has become much more diverse and influential, informing scholarship on education, environment, gender and property law, to name just a few examples.

There's the 1993 article, for example, that argues that gentrification "has not been the dominant process of social and neighborhood change in even a few inner cities and that it is largely irrelevant in most others," using a case study from Toronto. Another, from 2007, considers "new types of gentrifiers," namely, "family-oriented, middle-class groups who have different interests and motivations from "traditional" (childless) gentrifiers." In that article, the author argues that the "neo-liberalization of social service provision has enabled private groups, such as middle-class gentrifiers, to transform critical social institutions in gentrifying neighborhoods," looking specifically at charter schools.

See the full list, and access the articles, for free for a limited time, here.


In December, the Houston Independent School District school board decided not to seek partnerships with outside groups to manage several "improvement requirement" schools at risk of triggering a state takeover. It was, wrote board members Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Elizabeth Santos in a recent Houston Chronicle op-ed, a difficult decision.

In the end, they argue, "We were elected to see to it that our public schools thrive, not facilitate their transfer to charter managers who can make money off our students."

The pair went on to acknowledge the recent volatility in the district: "This board was divided on some high-profile issues last year. The two of us have been on opposite sides on some of those fights. But we are united in a vision for a school district where neighborhood schools are cornerstones of their communities, equity is a guiding principle of resource allocation and all students receive educations that are tailored to their individual learning needs."

And they pointed to flaws in the larger system, including the district's much-criticized "recapture" payment that property-wealthy districts give to the state to help fund other districts, while highlighting the recent success of the district's efforts to reduce the list of chronically struggling schools, according to state assessments. They called the threat of a state takeover based on test scores, which often reflect poverty, at even just one school, as well as suggestions to add at-large members to the board, "thinly veiled attempts to diminish the voting power of black and brown communities in our city."


Leah Binkovitz


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