Smith and LeFaivre (1984) argue that “capitalism is based precisely on its ability to

displace the working class in all sorts of situations” yet as Bridge (1994) points out,

Britain has experienced less total forms of gentrification which makes displacement a

less direct or observable corollary. That capitalism is responsible is less clear than that

the existence of both markets and certain forms of market control (see Albon and

Stafford, 1987, on the ill effects of rent control) and it is certainly true to say that the

opening up of markets in previously state run conditions has had adverse and rampaging

effects in the gentrification of property and the displacement of households (Tsenkova,

1994, Smith, 1996). Areas such as Beijing also appear to be undergoing transformation

on the back of the states’ willingness to introduce selective markets.


For many it may be difficult to understand how people can be displaced by what appears

to be the renewal and beautification of previously run-down areas. When the costs and

implications of the introduction of relatively wealthier households to these areas are

understood one can see that the desire by rentier and development capitalists to realise

the potential profits of an area can lead to both the direct displacement of people through

harassment and eviction and the indirect displacement through rent increases and

exclusion from ‘hot’ property markets (Smith, 1996:138). This more enlightened view

of the costs and benefits of gentrification highlights the degree to which people with

money have power over those that don’t.

Attention to the displacement of households through gentrification has been

insignificant in Britain. While displacement can be attributed to a number of causes (see

LeGates and Hartman, 1981:215) only a proportion of this total figure can be attributed

to the gentrification process. While Britain has produced little literature directly related

to displacement, except McCarthy (1974) and Lyons (1995), the literature of the US has

proliferated due, for the most part, to funding by central government and the use of

official and commercial housing survey data. As a bulk of the work on displacement has

been conducted from an American literature base this work is examined in relation to

the displacement process in Britain and London. This extrapolation is made under the

assumption that while gentrification forms a cross-national concept displacement is

likely to be manifest in much the same way; both theoretically and empirically.


It is not, however, particular easy in coming to a working definition of displacement.

While it essentially requires gentrification to have preceded it it can still occur through a

number of routes and have a number of different outcomes. The Grier’s define

displacement, in their HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development)

sponsored study, as happening when; “any household is forced to move from its residence by conditions which affect the

dwelling or its immediate surroundings, and which:

  1. are beyond the household’s reasonable ability to control or prevent;
  2. occur despite the household’s having met all previously imposed conditions of

occupancy; and

  1. make continued occupancy by that household impossible, hazardous, or

unaffordable.” (Grier and Grier, in LeGates and Hartman, 1981:214)

Marcuse (op cit.) has developed the concept of displacement that expands the US

government’s definition. Policy on gentrification and abandonment (when property

becomes so unprofitable that its returns are less than the running costs leading the owner

to leave it) in the US was premised upon three assumptions which found a)

abandonment to be ‘painful but inevitable’, b) gentrification to be a positive

improvement which caused a “trivial” amount of displacement and c) that gentrification

was the only real cure for abandonment. Marcuse set out to show how the two

phenomena were in fact related and expanded the definition provided by the Grier’s

which covered predominantly physical causes such that the following had been



  1. Economic and Physical displacement – which may be included as sub-sets within the

Grier’s definition whereby residents are priced out of a dwelling through rent increases

for example or by physical means such as by heat or by violence.

  1. Last resident displacement – counting the last resident as the only displacee.
  2. Chain displacement – when a ‘historical’ perspective is utilised such that counting

includes the number of residents over time which have been displaced from that


  1. Exclusionary displacement – An important contribution by Marcuse which radically

reformulates the concept of displacement to include those who are unable to move into

property which has been vacated voluntarily yet gentrified afterwards such that another

similar household cannot move in.


These developments have implications for any methodology set up to measure levels of

displacement since it becomes very difficult to adequately operationalise the concepts.


Displacement also affects more people than those who are simply displaced. There is an

effect on other residents who, Marcuse argues, see their;

“neighbourhood changing dramatically, when all their friends are leaving, when

stores are going out of business and new stores for other clientele are taking their

places (or none at all are replacing them), when changes in public facilities,

transportation patterns, support services, are all clearly making the area less and less

liveable.” (Marcuse, op cit:157)

Methodologically speaking (and from the point of view of displacees) this form of

displacement is important because any figure for displacement produced by using

before-and-after measurements will lack any measure of this form. The categories

which Marcuse sets out are not mutually exclusive and highlight the researcher’s

difficulty in measuring displacement when faced with the problems of a longitudinal

analysis coupled with the difficulty of treading a path between the underestimate of the

pure conservative or the overestimate of an extreme liberal definitions of displacement

which are now considered.


It is possible to identify different types of displacement in relation to certain key factors

in the process. Lee and Hodge (1984) distinguish between liberal and conservative

definitions of displacement (see also Swanstrom and Kerstein, 1989, who distinguish

between market and conflict approaches). The latter referring to whether any move may

be considered involuntary other than through eviction or destruction of property and the

former to any factor which appears to act upon the displacee such as rent increases or

harassment. Crucially the dividing line between these definitions affect the perceived

magnitude of the phenomenon. As Lee and Hodge point out;

“Beyond general agreement that displacement refers to involuntary mobility

instigated by forces external to the household, considerable variation exists in the

detailed meanings attached to the term.” (1984:144)

LeGates and Hartman (1981) and Lee and Hodge (1984:148) distinguish further

between private and public modes of displacement in which private refers to

displacement which has not resulted from use of public funds; public displacement is

clearly self explanatory. These types are also referred to in the British literature insofar as reference is made to the way in which rehabilitation grants have been used by

landlords to gentrify property (McCarthy, 1974, Balchin, 1995:67,) and by the inmovers themselves (Hamnett, 1973, Merrett, 1976:45) but the means testing of grant

applicants since 1990 has effectively ceased the relationship. Work has been done on

other ways in which the state may be involved in the displacement process, for example

planning and local policies which may facilitate gentrification (see Ambrose and

Colenutt on North Southwark, 1977, Chambers, 1988 on Hammersmith and Fulham

and Cameron, 1992, on Tyneside and London’s Docklands).


The public sector has clearly sponsored redevelopment and urban programmes such as

demolition and road building which have also contributed to displacement but are not

associated with gentrification in which it is the market mechanism which enables the

process to take place so that it is market, rather than political power, which may be held

to account even though such simplifications may become blurred and overlap in the

final analysis. In the public mode of displacement, in which impact assessment,

compensation and participation take place one can see a model of arbitration needed to

take place in cases of displacement from gentrification so that human rights can be

protected (Leckie, 1995).


Displacement in the past

As has been pointed out (Smith and Williams, 1986:2), many of the earlier writers

dealing with gentrification were highly empirical and did not get much beyond its

outward appearance; that of the physical upgrading of long forsaken tracts of the inner

urban environment which were in need of rehabilitating. The ideological and physical

desirability of protecting the gentrification process were linked in part to the US

taxation system by which operation revenues were generated locally (LeGates and

Hartman, 1986, Smith, 1996). Thus the influx of higher income residents moving into

an area was seen as positive, as was the rehabilitation of the inner urban environment. It

can also be argued that benefits have accrued to owner occupiers in gentrified areas who

may have seen the value of their houses rise dramatically. The late seventies brought a

more theoretically based set of works which began to show the underlying and anti-

social nature of the processes going on. While theoretical schisms have continued until

the present to divide researchers and commentators, this approach to the subject has

revealed far more about gentrification.


Writers have previously managed to provide invaluable data yet the ideological

manipulation of this data has become apparent (see for example the debate between

Sumka, 1979 and Hartman, 1979a, on the divergence between government and

academic figures of displacement). These problems aside it has been possible for

commentators to establish annual flows of displacement (Marcuse, 1986, LeGates and

Hartman, 1981, 1986, Leckie, 1995). Sumka (1979) has shown that annually 500,000

US households were displaced (approximately 2 million people).


The social characteristics and origination of gentrifiers have been identified (LeGates

and Hartman, op cit, McCarthy, 1974, Ley, 1994, Munt, 1987, Bridge, 1994, Zukin,

1982, Warde, 1991) and those of the displacees (LeGates and Hartman, op cit., Henig,

1980, 1984, Chan, 1986, DeGiovanni, 1986, McCarthy, 1974, Lyons, 1995, Smith,

1996) – low income, white working class, the elderly, ethnic minorities (less often since

areas predominated by ethnic minorities become popular far more slowly (although see

Chan, 1986, on Chinatown in Montreal and Smith, 1995, on the emergence of the



Chan also summarises the adverse psycho-social effects of displacement;

“effects of forced uprooting and relocation on them are particularly severe partly

because they are most likely to be long-term residents dependent on the

neighbourhood’s institutions and locally-based social network, and partly because

they are low in resources, and, therefore, would be more likely to experience forced

relocation and uprootedness as a crisis” (Chan, 1986:66)

LeGates, Hartman and Leckie have also written on the ill effects of displacement as a

psychological factor in the gentrification equation. The destination and living

circumstances of displacees, post gentrification has been documented (LeGates and

Hartman, op cit., McCarthy, op cit., Henig, op cit., Smith op cit.) – to more expensive

(80-85% of displacees had to pay more for worse accommodation, Hartman, 1979a:23),

persistent or worse overcrowding, often inferior but frequently adjacent accommodation

to their original location this is often because of a lack of resources to move any further

and often moves are made to friends or relatives households which accounts for much of

the observed overcrowding.


Displacement from gentrification has been defined by Leckie as occurring;

“when households have their housing choices made by another social group and this

may be aided by a legislature which often favours the powerful, the moneyed or the

landowning” (Leckie, 1995: 24).

This provides a strong baseline definition which shows that displacement is not always,

or simply, a violent or harassment based process as was often mentioned in the British

literature (Merrett, 1976:44, Hamnett and Williams, 1979:5). Displacement is to be

associated as much with constraint, social closure, legislative favouritism and market

bias as pure coercion (Marcuse, 1986).

Marcuse’s work is important because it reveals the complexity of displacement, its

history and its dependence on a variety of factors. The fact that the categories he sets out

are not mutually exclusive highlights the difficulty of measuring displacement by the

researcher who has to tackle the problems of a longitudinal analysis and the difficulty of

treading a path between the underestimate of the pure conservative or the overestimate

of the extreme liberal definition. The linking of methodology and ideology in these

developments is important in understanding both the meaning of the concept of

displacement in relation to the gentrification phenomenon and in understanding how

such conceptualisations may be linked to the research process.

Displacement in London


As has already been mentioned, little work has been done on displacement in London

yet the increasing polarisation and occupational change of that area has been noted

(Hamnett, 1976, Hall and Ogden, 1992, Harloe, 1992). In combination with the British

work done on gentrification in London with international literature on displacement it is

possible to gain some insights into the nature of the process in a grounded location such

as London.


In Britain the Department of the Environment carried out a survey in twelve inner

London boroughs (McCarthy, 1974) to find out three things, first, to what extent

existing residents were benefiting from house renovation, second, if they were not, why

did they move away, where to, and to what end, and third, did outward moving

households have different social characteristics to in-moving ones. The final aim was

based around the hypothetical involvement of gentrification in the renovation process.

In addition the study traced the residents in those properties as far as was possible.


The study found that household movement before renovation was marked such that “the

improvement of living conditions did not benefit the original residents.” (McCarthy,

1974:3). In total 68% of applications sampled had been preceded by the outward

movement of at least one household, almost three quarters of all households had moved

away. Of those leaving 80% were tenants, as might be expected.


A sequence of vacation, sale and then improvement appeared prevalent. Interestingly,

very few households were dissatisfied with their new accommodation – this may have

been due to the escape from harassment and eviction, rather than a real improvement in

living standards. By far the largest reason for moves was landlord harassment (43%).

Most importantly McCarthy described this process as one in which the “housing costs

associated with improved (and improvable) dwellings in inner London…tend to act as a

social sieve” (McCarthy, op cit:19).


Lyons (1995), study examined the effect of gentrification on displacement in London

over the censal period 1971-81, in particular looking at the socio-economic, geographic

and migratory aspects of the process. As with McCarthy, Lyons finds that local

migration is associated with low status households while longer range migration may be

associated with those of higher status indicating their relation to constraint and choice

respectively. For Lyons displacement is linked to gentrification and consumer choice for the gentrifiers but for the displacees, because of their lack of market power, they are

subject to constraint and coercion in their moves; or pull and push factors.


Research in the US (Galster and Peacock, 1986) has taken this approach further using

census data, regression analysis and four dependent variables selected as key

gentrification variables; percentage black, percentage college educated, real median

income and real median property values. These were then analysed with regard to a

range of other variables to see which had an impact on the level of incidence of the

gentrification variables. The research found that the different measures and levels of

stringency applied lead to varying levels of the manifestation being identified according

to the different operational definitions used.


These three studies formed the inspiration for this research which needed to use a

longitudinal analysis to study a before and after situation and which acknowledged that

use of the census would be the unrivalled data set to use (see limitations later). The

study was to examine a number of variables as the key dynamics behind gentrification professionals and managers, those with some form of higher education and owner

occupiers. These were selected because of the weight of empirical and theoretical

evidence suggesting them to be key characteristics of gentrifiers and gentrification

activity. It was not possible to elaborate the concept of gentrification any further

because of the restrictive nature of the census questions, a question on income for

example would have been invaluable in this respect. The research then sought to

examine the relationship between these variables and a set of key displacement

variables taken predominantly from the North American literature on the justification

that the two countries’ forms of gentrification were not wholly incommensurable.