A place for "families like us": reproducing gentrification and gentrifiers in two Boston neighborhoods
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This dissertation turns attention to the role middle class households with children play in processes of gentrification. Scholars have drawn attention to a burgeoning group of middle class families remaining in the city instead of suburbanizing upon the arrival of children. Often focused on families with young children, such trends are characterized as recent and removed from the history of gentrification in the U.S. As a result, residents with children who lived in early gentrifying neighborhoods of the 1970s/1980s--remain unaccounted for and raise unresolved questions about how history in a neighborhood influences responses to gentrification and subsequent interaction with the gentrified neighborhood. To understand these dynamics I utilize ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews in Egleston Square and Hyde Jackson, micro-neighborhoods in Boston experiencing processes of gentrification. By examining how middle class parents engage in residential decision making we see that changing expectations of urban living create opportunities for residents to reconcile their identities as parents with their identities as urbanites. Starting with a set of parents who arrived in the 1970s, I identify the migration of three parent cohorts, unveiling how each responds to the progression of gentrification and assigns meaning to their decision to raise children in each neighborhood. I also situate second generation residents, children raised in gentrifying neighborhoods, as an overlooked resident group, revealing how they navigate increasingly gentrified neighborhoods as adults. By examining the consumption and residential practices of second generation residents, we see the impacts of gentrification on a range of neighborhood spaces and the ways in which such residents adopt an ambivalent stance; where they maintain connections to the past while benefitting from select upscaling efforts in the present. In approaching gentrification as a migratory process, I also construct the concept of the second gentrifier, children of individuals who participated in earlier stages of gentrification and return to their childhood neighborhood via parental housing. The identification of this resident category illuminates how existing resident groups are reproduced over time. By tracing the residential decision making practices of middle class parents and children raised in gentrifying neighborhoods, I offer an unexpected perspective on the broader changes taking place in urban environments.