Theses Doctoral

When the Color Line Blurs: A Comparative Case Study Exploring How Latinx Parents Make Housing and Schooling Decisions Amid Demographic Inversion in New York City’s Metropolitan Area

Cordova-Cobo, Diana

Demographic inversion- when city neighborhoods gentrify with influxes of more affluent, mostly white, residents while nearby suburbs increasingly see influxes of Families of Color- has been a powerful trend (re)shaping metropolitan area neighborhoods and schools for the past two decades (Ehrenhalt, 2012; Frey, 2018). The New York City (NYC) metropolitan area, where Latinx people make up over a quarter of the population, has provided one of the starkest examples of this trend. While gentrification increased across Latinx neighborhoods in the City, the share of Latinx people living in metropolitan suburbs almost doubled. Yet, despite the growing presence of Latinx communities across NYC’s metropolitan area, and the country, we know surprisingly little about how contemporary Latinx parents decide where to live or send their children to school- decisions that are contributing to broader demographic inversion in metropolitan areas across the country.

Informed by existing research in the field, this study utilized a comparative case study (CCS) (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017) design that relied on interview data from 54 middle-class Latinx parents in the New York City metropolitan area and critical discourse analyses (CDA) of public commentary and documents to expand the public discourse and research on Latinx communities and demographic inversion. More specifically, the study explored how middle-class Latinx parents decided whether to stay in gentrifying neighborhoods or migrate to nearby outer-ring metropolitan suburbs and how their perceived racial identities, class status, and beliefs about the schooling of their children shaped these decisions. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted between Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 via Zoom with 28 parents who recently moved to outer-ring metropolitan suburbs from gentrifying City neighborhoods and 26 parents who still lived in gentrifying City neighborhoods at the time of their interview.

Whether parents chose to stay put in gentrifying neighborhoods or leave to nearby suburbs, parents’ decisions about where to live and send their children to school were shaped by the broader context of gentrification and displacement in New York City and the social constraints that explicitly or implicitly informed their daily lives. Parents navigated racialized neighborhood change narratives; negotiated their racial, ethnic and class identities; and prioritized cultural ideologies about community and identity during their decision-making process. Furthermore, parents' experiences with gentrification and the factors they prioritized in the neighborhood and school choice process varied by their racial identities- whether they identified as white Latinx, Latinx/Puerto Rican/Dominican, or Black/Afro Latinx. Their racial identities shaped their understandings of the current costs of gentrification in the City context and whether they prioritized racial diversity in the neighborhood and school selection process in the suburbs. Above all else, however, the middle-class Latinx parents in this study aimed to stay put in the City neighborhoods they grew up in because of asset-based views they held about Latinx communities and yet, because of rising housing costs and cultural displacement, parents either left to the suburbs or stayed in precarious housing situations in the City.

The findings from this study have implications for anti-displacement efforts taking place across gentrifying City neighborhoods in the United States, for how we address housing affordability from a regional perspective, and for how schools and local government can build on the asset-based perspectives of community and Latinx identity that echoed throughout parent interviews. Additionally, the varied experiences of Latinx parents in this study along the lines of racial identity and class have important implications for future research on Latinx communities in the United States that is more context-specific and engages with the specific experiences of the Latinx communities in that context to better inform more place-based policy interventions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Wells, Amy Stuart
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2022