Diagnoses were up among children living in gentrifying low-income neighborhoods, according to the researchers.

Brooklyn Row of Apartment Houses

A study by researchers from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University has found “moderate increases” in diagnoses of anxiety and depression in children ages 9-to-11 living in gentrifying low-income neighborhoods in New York City, at least among those residing in market-rate housing.

Based on New York State Medicaid claims data for 2009 through 2017, their analysis showed no significant impact on children’s health system use or diagnoses of asthma or obesity, however.

The new findings are reported in an article out today in the September issue of Health Affairs by Kacie L. Dragan, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Sherry A. Glied of NYU Wagner – titled “Gentrification And The Health of Low-Income Children In New York City.”

The study is available upon request.

For critics and defenders of urban gentrification, the findings may be surprising. “Our core results provide little evidence that gentrification dramatically altered the health status or health system use of children age 9-11,” they wrote.

However, the researchers cautioned that health effects from gentrification – either positive or negative – could emerge over the longer term, especially as younger children tend to be resilient and healthy. As for the signs of moderately elevated anxiety and depression among children living in gentrifying neighborhoods – especially in market-rate housing vulnerable to rent hikes and eviction – the researchers wrote that their findings warrant continued investigation as the cohort of 9- to 11-year-olds advances through adolescence.

“Neighborhood environments undoubtedly play a role in children’s health, but the largely null findings in both our analysis and the MTO (Moving to Opportunity Demonstration Program conducted by U.S. Housing and Urban Development) research suggest that the relationship between neighborhood economic change and health may be more nuanced than is often assumed,” they wrote.

The study follows a separate gentrification study by the same authors which found that low-income families in communities seeing an inflow of college graduates are no more likely to leave their homes or neighborhoods than those who reside in persistently low-income areas.

Ellen is Paulette Goddard Professor of Urban Policy and Planning and Faculty Director of the NYU Furman Center. Glied is the Dean of the NYU Wagner School and Professor of Public Service.  Dragan is former lead analyst for the Policies for Action Research Hub at NYU Wagner, and a PhD candidate in health policy at Harvard.


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