Emily Badger suggests chucking the word:
Even researchers don’t agree on what “gentrification” means, let alone how to identify it. (And this is to say nothing of its even more problematic derivative, the “gentrifier.”) … The definition matters… not purely for linguistic nit-picking, but because we seldom talk about gentrification in isolation. More often, we’re talking about its effects: who it displaces, what happens to those people, how crime rates, school quality or tax dollars follow as neighborhoods transform. And if we have no consistent way of identifying where “gentrification” exists, it then becomes a lot harder to say much about what it means.
Badger has me convinced, but I’d push further: “Gentrification” has taken on a life of its own as a lifestyle-section problem. The same language gets used to discuss concerns that a neighborhood has become unaffordable for poorer residents as to lament the fact that a favorite (pricey) coffee shop or boutique has closed its doors to make way for a chain store. NIMBY complaints hide out under the socially-acceptable – noble, even – guise of anti-gentrification advocacy.
This conflation of problems is not new, but when I read a NYT op-ed over the summer by a prominent restaurant owner, who was pointing out that because of rising rents, he may have to… change the location of one of his high-end Manhattan restaurants, I started to think that perhaps it’s gotten out-of-hand in recent years.
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