The concept of gentrification -- where middle or high income residents displace poorer residents within a particular region -- is relatively well studied in cities and urban settings. It is commonly used to describe economic, demographic, and cultural change in such environments. Gentrification in rural areas and areas with lower population densities is much less well studied. As America's rural landscape undergoes significant social and economic transformations, it will become increasingly important to understand the factors underlying these changes. In this project, scholars from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France will investigate whether rural changes in these three countries can be explained by the concept of rural gentrification. The three countries to be studied in this project are of particular interest because there are some important differences from one country to the next that will allow the researchers to test different hypotheses concerning social and economic change in rural settings. In terms of intellectual merit, this project will add to the theoretical understanding of gentrification as it plays out in different spatial contexts and situate interpretations of rural gentrification from different national contexts within the literatures on asset-based theorizations of social stratification, urban gentrification, and social capital in rural development. In terms of broader impacts, this project will produce key understandings that will be beneficial to rural development professionals and rural residents. Given the aging population in many advanced economies and the relationship between aging and migration to rural areas, forces of rural gentrification are likely to accelerate in the coming years. Therefore, knowledge of the extent of and processes behind rural gentrification across national contexts will be critical for future planning.
The researchers will employ a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand whether rural gentrification is capable of explaining the form and dynamics of rural change across the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The work will consist of (1) content and discourse analyses to understand how the concept of gentrification is used in the literatures in the three countries, (2) interviews with residents to develop a conceptualization of social assets employed within processes of rural gentrification, and (3) mappings and analyses of the geographies of rural gentrification in the three countries.