Measuring and mapping displacement: The problem of quantification in the battle against gentrification

Published: 2019 | Sue Easton, Loretta Lees, Phil Hubbard, Nicholas Tate | Urban Studies


Debates concerning residential population displacement in the context of gentrification remain vociferous, but are hampered by a lack of empirical evidence of the extent of the displacement occurring. The lack of quantitative evidence on gentrification-induced displacement and the difficulties in collecting it has long hampered the fight against it. Based on a systematic review of quantitative studies of the displacement associated with gentrification, this article considers how researchers have attempted to measure displacement using a range of statistical and mapping techniques reflecting the multi-dimensional character of gentrification. We note that these techniques often struggle to provide meaningful estimates of the number of individuals and households displaced by gentrification, something compounded by the lack of data available on a sufficiently granular temporal and spatial scale. Noting the limitations of extant methods, we conclude by considering the potential of more novel data sources and emergent methods involving the processing of larger amounts of (micro)data, as well as participatory GIS methods that involve affected communities themselves. This implies that whilst the quantitative study of displacement remains difficult, patterns and processes of displacement can be inferred through existing data sources, as well as data generated from those who themselves have experienced displacement.