chapter  5
25 Pages

SOCIAL ARGUMENTS Of yuppies and housing

Nineteen eighty-four was not the year of George Orwell, according to Newsweek, but rather “The Year of the Yuppie.” Or so read the front cover of the year-end issue, and it is no accident that the first photograph in the accompanying article identified the yuppie lifestyle with gentrification. Coined apparently in 1983 to refer to those young, upwardly mobile professionals of the baby-boom generation, the term “yuppie” has already achieved a wide currency; few words have had such an impressive debut in the language. Apart from age, upward mobility and an urban domicile, yuppies are supposed to be distinguished by a lifestyle devoted to inveterate consumption. To the popular press, therefore, which generally extols the virtues of gentrifying urban “pioneers,” the link between the two icons-yuppies and gentrification-was irresistible. In the academic literature, traditional explanations have also emphasized the role of consumption choices, lifestyle changes and the baby boom generation, but a number of researchers seeking more rounded explanations have begun to conceive gentrification as the social and geographical correlate of the rise of the yuppie, or, in more sober terms, the development of a “new middle class.” More generally, gentrification is treated as the result of a contemporary social restructuring (Mullins 1982; Rose 1984; Williams 1984a, 1986).