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Won't You be My Neighbor

Won't You be My Neighbor: Race, Class, and Residence in Los Angeles

Camille Zubrinsky Charles
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 264
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    Won't You be My Neighbor
    Book Description:

    Los Angeles is a city of delicate racial and ethnic balance. As evidenced by the 1965 Watts violence, the 1992 Rodney King riots, and this year’s award-winning film Crash, the city’s myriad racial groups coexist uneasily together, often on the brink of confrontation. In fact, Los Angeles is highly segregated, with racial and ethnic groups clustered in homogeneous neighborhoods. These residential groupings have profound effects on the economic well-being and quality of life of residents, dictating which jobs they can access, which social networks they can tap in to, and which schools they attend. In Won’t You Be My Neighbor? sociologist Camille Zubrinsky Charles explores how modern racial attitudes shape and are shaped by the places in which people live. Using in-depth survey data and information from focus groups with members of L.A.’s largest racial and ethnic groups, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? explores why Los Angeles remains a segregated city. Charles finds that people of all backgrounds prefer both racial integration and a critical mass of same-race neighbors. When asked to reveal their preferred level of racial integration, people of all races show a clear and consistent order of preference, with whites considered the most highly desired neighbors and blacks the least desirable. This is even true among recent immigrants who have little experience with American race relations. Charles finds that these preferences, which are driven primarily by racial prejudice and minority-group fears of white hostility, taken together with financial considerations, strongly affect people’s decisions about where they live. Still, Charles offers reasons for optimism: over time and with increased exposure to other racial and ethnic groups, people show an increased willingness to live with neighbors of other races.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-116-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction Or, Why I Love Mister Rogers
    (pp. 1-5)

    My obsession with the racial composition of neighborhoods probably began when I was four years old. For much of my childhood (until I was fourteen), my mother and I were the only nonwhite people for miles around in the Ventura, California, neighborhood where I grew up. Local police once told my mother that the location of our house was identified with a red pushpin on the map that hung on the precinct wall—not because they thought we would cause trouble, but because they were concerned that others might cause trouble for us. From what I have been told—and...

  6. Chapter One Los Angeles: A Window on the Future of the Nation
    (pp. 6-38)

    Los Angeles is one of the most racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse cities in the world. The public schools offer instruction in 92 of the 224 identified languages spoken in the county. Restaurants span the cuisines of the world, including Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Russian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Caribbean, Argentinean, Cuban, and Guatemalan, not to mention the ubiquitous Mexican, Chinese, Italian, French, and Japanese venues, classic “American” soul food restaurants, and Jewish deli spots. The political landscape is equally diverse, with local officeholders and prominent public figures whose surnames run from Molina to Woo, Edelman, Ito, Yaroslavsky, Antonovich, Waters, Abramson, Burke,...

  7. Chapter Two Theoretical Perspectives on the Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation
    (pp. 39-63)

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, W. E. B. Du Bois (1903/1990, 120–21) recognized the importance of neighborhoods—the “physical proximity of home and dwelling-places, the way in which neighborhoods group themselves, and [their] contiguity”—as primary locations for social interaction, lamenting that the “color line” separating black and white neighborhoods caused each to see the worst in the other. Indeed, students of racial inequality from Gunnar Myrdal to Karl and Alma Taeuber have believed that segregation is a major barrier to equality. The Taeubers (1965, 1) asserted that segregation “inhibits the development of informal, neighborly relations” and...

  8. Chapter Three The Economics of Housing
    (pp. 64-97)

    The striking differences in traditional measures of social class status presented in chapter 1 lead easily to the assumption that certain groups simply lack the financial resources of other groups and therefore cannot pay as much for housing. As such, racial residential segregation would be best explained as a consequence of economic disadvantage that leaves some groups with fewer (and arguably less desirable) housing options compared to economically advantaged groups. This assumption is consistent with the spatial assimilation model (Massey 1985), which posits that increasing socioeconomic status and (for immigrants) acculturation offer upward social mobility that includes movement into whiter...

  9. Chapter Four A Racialized Housing Market?
    (pp. 98-130)

    Race and race-related issues are a concern for most Americans, whether or not we are willing to say so openly and whether or not we are even consciously aware of these issues. Our concern is tied to both our own racial-group membership and our attitudes about and perceptions of those we label racial “others” Although many public discussions of racial attitudes center on what white people think, the housing choices made by members of all groups are a function, in part at least, of racial attitudes and preferences. For example, many nonwhites believe that the presence of a “critical mass”...

  10. Chapter Five From Racial Attitudes to Neighborhood Racial Composition Preferences
    (pp. 131-162)

    A variety of factors shape residential decisionmaking: cost and affordability, the quality of the housing stock, preferences for particular dwelling amenities, proximity to work or other important destinations, stage in the life course, the quality of the public schools (Ellen 2000; Galster 1988). Consequently, aggregate-level residential outcomes are the result of a multitude of individual-level attitudes and behaviors. In analyses of patterns ofracialresidential preferences, however, three hypotheses are typically considered:

    1. Perceived differences in socioeconomic status that heavily coincide with racial-ethnic boundaries contribute to racial residential preferences.

    2. Members of all social groups tend to be ethnocentric, that is, to...

  11. Chapter Six Race and Class Aligned
    (pp. 163-189)

    The previous chapters offer compelling evidence that racial prejudice is implicated in patterns of neighborhood segregation. Equally compelling is evidence that mere in-group preferences and (except for Asians) efforts to avoid coresidence with groups perceived as relatively disadvantaged economically play a minimal role at best. First, a detailed analysis of the relationship between individual-level social background characteristics and actual neighborhood outcomes (chapter 3) found that whites live in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods irrespective of their individual characteristics, while almost the exact opposite is true for blacks. That is, individual-level socioeconomic status characteristics explain little about blacks’ neighborhood exposure to whites...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 190-198)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 199-218)
  14. References
    (pp. 219-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-252)