Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Prismatic Metropolis

Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles

Lawrence D. Bobo
Melvin L. Oliver
James H. Johnson
Abel Valenzuela
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 628
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610440738
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Prismatic Metropolis
    Book Description:

    This book cuts through the powerful mythology surrounding Los Angeles to reveal the causes of inequality in a city that has weathered rapid population change, economic restructuring, and fractious ethnic relations. The sources of disadvantage and the means of getting ahead differ greatly among the city's myriad ethnic groups. The demand for unskilled labor is stronger here than in other cities, allowing Los Angeles's large population of immigrant workers with little education to find work in light manufacturing and low-paid service jobs.

    A less beneficial result of this trend is the increased marginalization of the city's low-skilled black workers, who do not enjoy the extended ethnic networks of many of the new immigrant groups and who must contend with persistent negative racial stereotypes.

    Patterns of residential segregation are also more diffuse in Los Angeles, with many once-black neighborhoods now split evenly between blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. Inequality in Los Angeles cannot be reduced to a simple black-white divide. Nonetheless, in this thoroughly multicultural city, race remains a crucial factor shaping economic fortunes.

    A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-073-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Lawrence D. Bobo, Melvin L. Oliver, James H. Johnson Jr. and Abel Valenzuela Jr.
  5. PART I INTRODUCTION:: FOUNDATIONS OF A PRISMATIC METROPOLIS

    • 1 ANALYZING INEQUALITY IN LOS ANGELES
      (pp. 3-50)
      Lawrence D. Bobo, Melvin L. Oliver, James H. Johnson Jr. and Abel Valenzuela Jr.

      Many scholars and policymakers are concerned that the nature and distribution of opportunity in our society is undergoing massive change. Owing in part to steady waves of immigration and differential rates of fertility, the United States is also rapidly becoming a more racially and ethically diverse nation (McDaniel 1995; Bean and Bell-Rose 1999). At the same time, processes of technological innovation, intensified global integration, deindustrialization, and industrial deconcentration are transforming the world of work. One central impact of these changes is a widening gap in pay between high-skill and low-skill workers (Danziger and Gottschalk 1995; Wilson 1996). This development has...

    • 2 A DEMOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, 1970 TO 1990
      (pp. 51-80)
      David M. Grant

      Understanding inequality at the local level in Los Angeles County is a relatively complicated matter, due to the twin forces of demographic and economic restructuring. Indeed, few if any cities on the national or world stage can match the rapid recasting of Los Angeles’s social and economic landscape. The Los Angeles Study of Urban Inequality (LASUI) was designed to capture the increasingly complex reality of urban inequality on the eve of the twenty-first century. Eliciting respondents’ experiences and views on racial and ethnic attitudes, labor market dynamics, and housing segregation, this survey allows competing hypotheses about the causes and dimensions...

    • 3 RACIAL ATTITUDES IN A PRISMATIC METROPOLIS: MAPPING IDENTITY, STEREOTYPES, COMPETITION, AND VIEWS ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
      (pp. 81-164)
      Lawrence D. Bobo and Devon Johnson

      How and why do racial attitudes influence patterns of urban inequality? At least since W. E. B. DuBois completed his pioneering study,The Philadelphia Negro, in 1899, students of urban social phenomena have tackled this question. In DuBois’s era, the effects of racial prejudice and the necessity to incorporate them into any sensible social analysis were unambiguous. (For a fuller treatment of DuBois’s discussion of racial prejudice inThe Philadelphia Negro, see Bobo, 2000.) Contemporary scholars still face these questions, but the extent and effects of negative racial attitudes have become less transparent. Accordingly, examinations of job prospects for low-skilled...

  6. PART II OPPORTUNITIES DIVIDED:: RACE, SPACE, AND GENDER IN LOS ANGELES

    • 4 RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION IN LOS ANGELES
      (pp. 167-219)
      Camille Zubrinsky Charles

      Los Angeles is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world. The public schools offer instruction in more than ninety different languages. Restaurants offer a wide variety of the world’s cuisine. The political landscape is equally diverse, with local officeholders and prominent public figures whose surnames run from Hernandez to Ito to Yaroslavsky to Abramson to Bradley to Woo. Both residents and visitors to the city can take part in annual African Marketplace festivals, Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos commemorations, Chinese New Year, and the Korean Choosuk, a Thanksgiving celebration.

      This diversity reflects...

    • 5 RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION AND LONG-TERM JOBLESSNESS AMONG LESS-EDUCATED MEN
      (pp. 220-248)
      Michael I. Lichter and Melvin L. Oliver

      One of the triumphs of William Julius Wilson’s (1978, 1987) work has been an intellectual shift away from individualistic and toward more collective explanations of urban poverty and its correlates, including weak labor force attachment, crime, welfare dependency, and teen pregnancy. Wilson pointed to economic restructuring, a prospering and mobile black middle class, the resultant increase in residential segregation by class among blacks, and the rising concentration of poverty in ghetto neighborhoods as a set of interrelated changes that left some segments of the black formerly-working class socially isolated. Detached from the mainstream economy and bereft of traditional role models,...

    • 6 Latino Earnings Inequality: Immigrant and Native-Born Differences
      (pp. 249-278)
      Abel Valenzuela Jr. and Elizabeth Gonzalez

      Latinos, immigrants and nonimmigrants alike, have become a formidable presence in Los Angeles. They, at least the Mexican ethnic subgroup, have been part of the Los Angeles landscape since the city was only a small pueblo, founded in 1581. As the city grew, so did the Mexican and, by extension, the Latino population. Early in the city’s history (post–1848),¹ Mexicans clearly became a large part of the segregated, poor, and working-class segment of Los Angeles. Numerous factors, including migration from the Union and international immigration, industrial change, and the political and economic dominance by whites, contributed to the unequal...

    • 7 A PROTECTED NICHE? IMMIGRANT ETHNIC ECONOMIES AND LABOR MARKET SEGMENTATION
      (pp. 279-314)
      Tarry Hum

      Immigrant ethnic economies are a vibrant part of the urban economic and social landscape. Familiar to even the most casual observers, they are often spatially clustered and exhibit a distinct ethnic character. Historic enclaves such as Chinatown have been joined by newer ethnic concentrations including Koreatown, Pico Union, New Phnom Penh, and Little Saigon in Orange County. Other immigrant economies are distinguished by occupational and industrial niches, for example, South Asian–owned motels, newsstands, taxicabs, Cambodian doughnut shops, Korean and Vietnamese nail salons. Ethnic economic niches may also exhibit a regional specialization, as suggested by the agglomeration of Korean greengrocers...

    • 8 AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES IN DECLINE: A LOS ANGELES CASE STUDY
      (pp. 315-337)
      James H. Johnson Jr., Walter C. Farrell Jr. and Jennifer A. Stoloff

      Research confirms that the social and economic status of the African American male has steadily deteriorated over the last quarter century. It is well documented that their rates of school failure, joblessness, homicide, incarceration, and other antisocial behaviors far exceed those for their white, Hispanic, and Asian male counterparts. In fact, the magnitude of these problems has led some researchers to characterize the African American male as an endangered species (Austin 1996; Cose 1995; Gibbs 1989; McCall 1995).

      In an earlier article, we culled from the extant literature four schools of thought that have been advanced to explain the crisis...

    • 9 CHILD CARE AS POVERTY POLICY: THE EFFECT OF CHILD CARE ON WORK AND FAMILY POVERTY
      (pp. 338-382)
      Julie E. Press

      With about two-thirds of mothers in the workforce, 21 million infants, toddlers, and preschoolers—and millions more school-age children—spend all or some of their day in the care of someone other than a parent. Another 5 million “latchkey” children are home alone after school while their parents work. Most child care facilities range from mediocre to poor, and children fall under the care of untrained, unlicensed, and poorly paid workers (the average salary is just above minimum wage). Even so, many families cannot find or afford dependable child care at all. According to findings from the 1990 National Child...

    • 10 BRIDGING SOCIAL NETWORKS AND FEMALE LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION IN A MULTIETHNIC METROPOLIS
      (pp. 383-416)
      James H. Johnson Jr., Elisa Jayne Bienenstock, Walter C. Farrell Jr. and Jennifer L. Glanville

      In academic circles, the policy arena, and the popular press, considerable attention has been devoted to the unprecedented rise in illegitimacy and in the growth of welfare-dependent, female-headed households in urban America during the past five decades (Garfinkel and McLanahan 1994; Usdansky 1996). This demographic change has been popularly characterized as the “feminization of poverty,” and both cultural and structural explanations have been advanced as a basis for proposed policy prescriptions to remedy the situation. The main cultural explanation derives primarily from the culture of poverty thesis, which posits that deviant cultural values, especially negative attitudes toward work, are perpetuated...

    • 11 SEARCH, DISCRIMINATION, AND THE TRAVEL TO WORK
      (pp. 417-452)
      Michael A. Stoll

      The question of space has become an important component of labor market analysis. Where workers live in relation to where jobs are located indicates to a large extent how much time and how far workers search for and travel to work, among other things. For urban blacks, and to a lesser extent Latinos, the question of space has become central to the story of their labor market difficulties. For the past three decades, the employment difficulties of blacks have been much more severe than those of whites. Even in the good economic times of 1999, the unemployment rate of white...

    • 12 SPATIAL MISMATCH OR MORE OF A MISHMASH? MULTIPLE JEOPARDY AND THE JOURNEY TO WORK
      (pp. 453-488)
      Julie E. Press

      The Journey to work is a crucial factor in the operation of urban labor markets. Time spent commuting is the tie that binds residential location, job location, and transportation. This relationship is a dynamic system that structures and shapes the character of labor pools and job pools, determining many important social and economic outcomes for metropolitan workers and firms. Analyses of commuting emerging from the early neoclassical economic perspective (for example, Alonso 1964) assume that workers freely choose their commute between home and work, with higher wages justifying longer commute times. Social scientists now understand that many factors differentially restrict...

  7. PART III UNDERSTANDING PROCESSES OF DISCRIMINATION

    • 13 RACIAL ATTITUDES AND POWER IN THE WORKPLACE: DO THE HAVES DIFFER FROM THE HAVE-NOTS?
      (pp. 491-522)
      Lawrence D. Bobo, Devon Johnson and Susan A. Suh

      Within the social sciences there has been a strong tendency to assume that the logic and demands of a competitive industrial economy would, in the long run, work against racial inequality. Many students of race relations, however, argue that racialized social conditions and identities can powerfully affect market dynamics. In light of these differing perspectives, one hypothesis worthy of careful investigation springs from Herbert Blumer’s analyses of “Industrialization and Race Relations” (1965a) and “The Future of the Color Line” (1965b). In these essays he argued that the larger social relations of race will carryover into market relations of the economy....

    • 14 SURVEYING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION: ANALYSES FROM A MULTIETHNIC LABOR MARKET
      (pp. 523-560)
      Lawrence D. Bobo and Susan A. Suh

      The debate over the extent, nature, and consequences of modern racial-ethnic discrimination continues to grow. Social science research has not yielded simple answers to the question of the current potency of race-based discrimination in the workplace. On the one hand, the growth of the black middle class (Landry 1987), significant affirmative action and antidiscrimination enforcement efforts (Burstein 1985; Jaynes and Williams 1989), and more positive racial attitudes (Firebaugh and Davis 1988; Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo 1985) all point toward a potentially diminishing problem of labor market discrimination (Wilson 1978). On the other hand, systematic social science investigations of actual forms...

    • 15 WOMEN’S PERCEPTIONS OF WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION: IMPACTS OF RACIAL GROUP, GENDER, AND CLASS
      (pp. 561-596)
      Susan A. Suh

      From 1950 to 1990, women of color have doubled their representation in the paid workforce, and are projected to increase their participation through the next century (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission 1991), but their self-described experiences in the workplace have often been neglected.¹ This gap in knowledge is especially noticeable regarding Asian Americans, even though there has been a doubling of their representation in the paid workforce between 1980 and 1990. This paucity hinders the development of more rigorous theory building, hypothesis testing, and research designs that incorporate women in the workforce, especially those who are neither white nor African American....

  8. Index
    (pp. 597-611)