Tenements as Housing Safety Valve: Immigrants in New York City around 1900

Rowena Gray, University of California Merced

The paper combines all available data sources on the rents and locations of tenement buildings in New York City during the age of mass migration. Data has been geocoded wherever possible. We look at various aspects of the economics of tenements and the welfare of tenement dwellers. This includes analysis of tenement construction and the payoff to owning such buildings, given fluctuations in rents and regulations. We incorporate Census data to explore who lived in tenements and the extent to which they provided high elasticity of housing supply during a time when population was expanding at one of the most rapid rates in the world, fueled by immigration of various groups of Europeans. We can also observe groups moving out beyond tenements in lower Manhattan, to be replaced by other groups who made those neighborhoods their own. The focus of the paper is quantitative, serving to complement the existing analysis of Census data and anecdotal evidence on tenement life with more hard data on rents and density of occupation of tenements.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 28. From Empire to Empire State: Housing New York City over the Long Run