Whitest City in America: A Smaller Black Community's Experience of Gentrification, Displacement, and Aging in Place

Raina Croff, Monique Hedmann, Lisa L. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: The influx of people with higher socioeconomic status into large Black communities is well documented; less is known regarding smaller, aging Black communities. Older Black adults in Portland, Oregon, among America's fastest gentrifying cities with the smallest metropolitan Black population, discussed barriers to healthy aging. Perspectives centered on the experience of gentrification, displacement, and its impact on social microsystems, place security, and aging in place. Research Design and Methods: One-time focus groups engaged 41 Black adults aged at least 45. A demographic survey included residence area/duration. Discussions were thematically coded. Ecological Systems Theory guided interpretation. Results: The majority of participants resided within gentrifying historically Black neighborhoods (89.2%), were aged at least 65 (54.6%), and lived in their neighborhood for at least 21 years (24.3%). Emergent discussion themes were rise and fall of Black ownership, displacement, race-related stress, and financial burden. Gentrification contributed to the dismantling of Black property ownership curated over generations, increased financial burden, and threatened place security. Physical displacement strained social networks, diminishing intergenerational neighborhood ties that supported aging in place. Cultural and physical displacement weakened the sense of social cohesion and belonging and induced race-related stressful interactions with new residents within original and relocation neighborhoods. Discussion and Implications: Gentrification in the Pacific Northwest echoes national trends, uprooting critical close-proximity social networks and deteriorating motivation to engage in neighborhood-based social activity. Smaller, aging Black communities may be particularly vulnerable to these effects, which critically affect aging in place. Data inform researchers and policymakers to better understand how gentrification affects smaller, aging Black communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1254-1265
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • African American
  • Ecological Systems Theory
  • Neighborhood change
  • Place security
  • Social cohesion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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