Resisting Gentrification: The Theoretical and Practice Contributions of Social Work

Published In

Journal of Social Work

Document Type


Publication Date



Summary: Gentrification is changing the landscape of many cities worldwide, exacerbating economic and racial inequality. Despite its relevance to social work, the field has been conspicuously absent from scholarship related to gentrification. This paper introduces the dominant view of gentrification (a political economic lens), highlighting its contributions and vulnerabilities, then introduces four case studies that illuminate the distinct contributions of social work to broaden the ways in which gentrification is theorized and responded to within communities.

Findings: When gentrification is analyzed exclusively through a political economy lens, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners are likely to focus on changes in land and home values, reducing the adverse effects of gentrification to a loss of affordable housing. A singular focus on affordable housing risks paying insufficient attention to racial struggle, perpetuating damage-based views of poor people and neighborhoods, and obfuscating political, social and cultural displacements. Social work practice—including social action group work, community organizing, community development, and participatory research and planning — offers a holistic approach to understanding, resisting, and responding to gentrification and advance equitable development in the city.

Applications: By exploring social work practice that amplifies residents’ and change makers’ efforts, advances existing community organizing, produces new insights, builds inter-neighborhood and interdisciplinary collaborations, and facilitates social action and policy change, this paper helps community practitioners to reimagine the role of social work research and practice in gentrifying neighborhoods.



Persistent Identifier