Aging in Place or Functional Specialization? The Dynamics of Neighborhood Age Structure, 1970–2010

John W. Sullivan , University of California, Los Angeles

There is considerable heterogeneity in the age distribution of American neighborhoods. Some are reputed as hubs for young adults, others as destinations for retirees or great places for families with children. Are these characterizations temporary or persistent? Using five decades of tract level data on the age distribution of American neighborhoods, I propose a model to assign neighborhoods into one of two ideal types based on long-run patterns of population succession. In the first type, the population of a neighborhood ages in place as a cohort. In the second, functionally specialized neighborhoods are home to a specific age group (but different individuals) year after year. I model the structural and social correlates of these two patterns of population succession on the neighborhood and metropolitan area level. I further suggest that these patterns have important implications for patterns of neighborhood change and residential segregation.

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 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization