Adobe Stock/Sarah Jane

A recently published study by UC Berkeley shows that high housing costs in the Bay Area are pushing out poor people, cutting them off from relatives, and lengthening commuting times. The study tracked migratory patterns and demographic changes across the region from 2000 to 2015. Intensifying racial disparities among neighborhoods is another undesirable outcome.

While neighborhoods in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond saw declines in black population, farther-out areas of the East Bay and beyond saw increases. The study indicates that living in areas that give residents a better chance at educational success, good health, and upward mobility often comes down to race, not class.

Miriam Zuk, director of the Urban Displacement Project, said “We talk about the reshuffling of people in spaces as if there are no consequences. There’s this trope of, ‘Oh, everyone is free to move where they want and maybe moving from a low-income area of the city to the suburbs is a good thing.’ What we see is that’s not happening. When people move, they are not necessarily moving to better-off places.”

The analysis showed that across the Bay Area, a 30 percent increase in median rent in a given neighborhood corresponded with a more than 20 percent decrease in the number of low-income African Americans, Latinos and Asians living there. The researchers found no significant relationship between rent increases and losses of low-income white households.

In three counties studied in the most detail — San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa — the researchers found “significant and uneven shifts” between 2000 and 2015 in the neighborhoods where low-income people of color lived. Demographic changes at the city level could be pinpointed to just a few neighborhoods where they were the most concentrated.

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