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Ethnic Los Angeles

Ethnic Los Angeles

Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 512
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    Ethnic Los Angeles
    Book Description:

    Since 1965 more immigrants have come to Los Angeles than anywhere else in the United States. These newcomers have rapidly and profoundly transformed the city's ethnic makeup and sparked heated debate over their impact on the region's troubled economy.Ethnic Los Angelespresents a multi-investigator study of L.A.'s immigrant population, exploring the scope, characteristics, and consequences of ethnic transition in the nation's second most populous urban center.

    Using the wealth of information contained in the U.S. censuses of 1970, 1980, and 1990, essays on each of L.A.'s major ethnic groups tell who the immigrants are, where they come from, the skills they bring and their sources of employment, and the nature of their families and social networks. The contributors explain the history of legislation and economic change that made the city a magnet for immigration, and compare the progress of new immigrants to those of previous eras. Recent immigrants to Los Angeles follow no uniform course of adaptation, nor do they simply assimilate into the mainstream society. Instead, they have entered into distinct niches at both the high and low ends of the economic spectrum. While Asians and Middle Easterners have thrived within the medical and technical professions, low-skill newcomers from Central America provide cheap labor in light manufacturing industries.

    AsEthnic Los Angelesmakes clear, the city's future will depend both on how well its economy accommodates its diverse population, and on how that population adapts to economic changes. The more prosperous immigrants arrived already possessed of advanced educations and skills, but what does the future hold for less-skilled newcomers? Will their children be able to advance socially and economically, as the children of previous immigrants once did? The contributors examine the effect of racial discrimination, both in favoring low-skilled immigrant job seekers over African Americans, and in preventing the more successful immigrants and native-born ethnic groups from achieving full economic parity with whites.

    Ethnic Los Angelesis an illuminating portrait of a city whose unprecedented changes are sure to be replicated in other urban areas as new concentrations of immigrants develop. Backed by detailed demographic information and insightful analyses, this volume engages all of the issues that are central to today's debates about immigration, ethnicity, and economic opportunity in a post-industrial urban society.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-547-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Roger Waldinger and Mehdi Bozorgmehr
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    • CHAPTER 1 The Making of a Multicultural Metropolis
      (pp. 3-38)
      Roger Waldinger and Mehdi Bozorgmehr

      The history of the Los Angeles region took a new turn on April 29, 1992. On that afternoon, nine jurors–all white, all residing in a white suburban enclave just outside Los Angeles County–acquitted four white officers of the Los Angeles Police Department who had been accused of using excessive force against black motorist Rodney King. Police violence against L.A’ s black and Latino populations was nothing new, but in this case, the beating had been videotaped and then broadcast to the region’s teeming millions time and again. Within hours of the jury’s action, violent protest engulfed the city’s...

    • CHAPTER 2 Historical Perspectives: Immigration and the Rise of a Distinctive Urban Region, 1900-1970
      (pp. 39-76)
      John H. M. Laslett

      In less than a hundred years Los Angeles was transformed from a small, largely Hispanic backwater into a huge multicultural metropolitan region. Focusing on the period between 1900 and 1970, this chapter is intended to explore modern Los Angeles’ cultural and economic roots, to disentangle its ethnic and racial complexity, and to provide the reader with a historical understanding of the structural changes that occurred as the city grew.

      By 1970, Los Angeles was on the brink of becoming America’s second largest and most prosperous conurbation and aspiring to be a world city to which others would look as a...


    • CHAPTER 3 Population Change: Immigration and Ethnic Transformation
      (pp. 79-108)
      Georges Sabagh and Mehdi Bozorgmehr

      Los Angeles was a small Mexican pueblo when California was admitted to the Union in 1850. The first federal census of California in that year showed that Los Angeles had 3,518 inhabitants, most of them of Mexican origin. Los Angeles remained a small town until 1880, when its population reached 30,000; from then on a remarkable demographic story unfolded. In a relatively short time, as we saw in the preceding chapter, L.A. experienced a population explosion, becoming the premier migrant metropolis of the United States and attracting Americans from all over the country, especially from the Midwest. This new “gold...

    • CHAPTER 4 Residential Patterns: Avoidance, Assimilation, and Succession
      (pp. 109-138)
      William A. V. Clark

      The Northridge earthquake struck Los Angeles on January 17, 1994, delivering a social as well as a seismic shock. When the trembling stopped, the region began the long, hard work of recovering from its most recent natural disaster, only to receive a geography lesson that it had not expected to learn. The earth had shaken hardest in the San Fernando Valley, where white middle-class homeowners had replaced orange groves barely a generation ago. But in the aftermath of the catastrophe, Angelenos discovered that the epicenter of the quake had become home to a fast-growing concentration of newcomers from abroad. For...

    • CHAPTER 5 Language: Diversity and Assimilation
      (pp. 139-164)
      David E. Lopez

      Most chapters in this volume are concerned with the economic correlates of ethnicity in Greater Los Angeles. This emphasis is understandable and appropriate given the emphasis of contemporary sociology on the economic adaptation of immigrants and the importance of class status for intergroup relations. But there are noneconomic aspects of ethnicity that are equally fundamental in the ongoing transformation of Los Angeles. Above all is the debate over multiculturalism: Can the United States as a political community withstand levels of diversity so great that it is divided into a set of communities separated by gulfs of language, religion, and other...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Labor Market: Immigrant Effects and Racial Disparities
      (pp. 165-192)
      Paul Ong and Abel Valenzuela Jr.

      Over the past twenty-five years, the influx of Latino and Asian immigrants to Los Angeles has transformed the region’s population, a change that has reconfigured and complicated race relations, particularly as they pertain to economic issues. The pattern of white racism against blacks and Latinos has shifted to a more nuanced and convoluted one of multiracial and multi-ethnic configurations. This transformation in race relations is symbolized by the differences between the 1965 Watts uprising and the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles. According to the Kerner Commission, the 1965 Watts uprising, like the other urban riots of that period, was...

    • CHAPTER 7 Self-Employment: Mobility Ladder or Economic Lifeboat?
      (pp. 193-214)
      Ivan Light and Elizabeth Roach

      Staggering under the quadruple blows of national recession, slumping housing values, reduced defense spending, and long-term exportation of jobs, Greater Los Angeles became an official ex-paradise in the 1990s.¹ An influential report found that Los Angeles suffers “urban, industrial, and social decay comparable to the worst of the Eastern metropolises.”² In actuality, Greater Los Angeles’ deterioration was underway long before the riot and arson of April, 1992 attracted media attention.³ In the preceding decade many whites had left Greater Los Angeles, turning “California, Here I Come” into “California, Here I Go.” Apparently, however, the revised lyrics did not reach Central...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Manufacturing Economy: Ethnic and Gender Divisions of Labor
      (pp. 215-244)
      Allen J. Scott

      The demographic changes that have swept across Los Angeles in recent decades have had profound effects on the economic as well as the social life of the metropolis. Several earlier chapters in this volume have described how ethnicity plays a central role in the ordering of the region’s labor markets. Over much of the present century, as chapter 1 recounts, African American, Latino, and Asian workers have been largely excluded from core sectors. Recent immigrants, in particular, have been drawn disproportionately into the expanding low-wage sector, and this phenomenon in turn appears to have had negative consequences for the employment...


    • CHAPTER 9 The Mexican-Origin Population: Permanent Working Class or Emerging Middle Class?
      (pp. 247-278)
      Vilma Ortiz

      For most of the twentieth century, Los Angeles’ Mexican roots could be either ignored by Anglo Angelenos or, when not ignored, turned into a mythical “Spanish” past. But the immigration of the last twenty-five years has reconnected contemporary Los Angeles to its origins. Today, residents of Mexican ancestry constitute the area’s largest single ethnic bloc; just over a quarter of the region’s residents trace their origins to Mexico, as do 40 percent of the residents of Los Angeles County.¹ With this large population in place, Los Angeles has become the capital of Mexican America and the single largest Mexican concentration...

    • CHAPTER 10 Central Americans: At the Bottom, Struggling to Get Ahead
      (pp. 279-304)
      David E. Lopez, Eric Popkin and Edward Telles

      Although Chicanos and immigrant Mexicans still constitute the overwhelming majority of the region’s Latino population, Latino Los Angeles was fundamentally altered in the 1980s by the massive influx of immigrants from other parts of Latin America. Today Los Angeles is home to immigrants from throughout the Americas. Each new group has constructed its own array of ethnic institutions: restaurants, soccer and social clubs, and bewildering constellations of “hometown” organizations devoted to remembering and supporting the communities left behind. This chapter briefly surveys this new Latino diversity and then examines in depth the current status and prospects of the largest and...

    • CHAPTER 11 Asians: The “Model Minority” Deconstructed
      (pp. 305-344)
      Lucie Cheng and Philip Q. Yang

      “I thought I would never say this. But these new immigrants are ruining things for us,” Jim Yamada, a third-generation Japanese American, said in disgust. “Asian Americans fought for decades against discrimination and racial prejudice. We want to be treated just like everybody else, like Americans. You see, I get real angry when people come up to me and tell me how good my English is. They say, ‘Oh, you have no accent. Where did you learn English?’ Where did I learn English? Right here in America. I was born here like they were. We really hated it when people...

    • CHAPTER 12 Middle Easterners: A New Kind of Immigrant
      (pp. 345-378)
      Mehdi Bozorgmehr, Claudia Der-Martirosian and Georges Sabagh

      It may seem odd to open a chapter about Middle Easterners in Los Angeles with the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City. The reaction of some Americans to the news of the bombing, however, speaks volumes about the prevailing stereotype of Middle Easterners. As the worst terrorist act ever recorded in the United States, the devastating explosion on April 19, 1995 killed many more innocent people than the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City two years before, yet they shared an eerily common method of destruction; in each case a vehicle loaded with...

    • CHAPTER 13 African Americans: Social and Economic Bifurcation
      (pp. 379-412)
      David M. Grant, Melvin L. Oliver and Angela D. James

      The modern history of black Los Angeles is bracketed by violence. In August 1965, the Watts district in L.A.’s South Central black ghetto erupted in three days of burning, looting, and altercations that pitted the area’s African American residents against the city’s largely white police. Even back then, there was controversy over whether the disorder qualified as a riot or a civil uprising. Whatever the verdict on this narrow point, few would quarrel with the Kerner Commission on Civil Disorders in its judgment that the “Los Angeles riot, the worst in the United States since the Detroit riot of 1943,...

    • CHAPTER 14 Anglos: Beyond Ethnicity?
      (pp. 413-442)
      Roger Waldinger and Michael Lichter

      Sociological research on the once-bubbling cauldron of European immigrants and their descendants tells us that the major ethnic differences of old have now largely melted away. To be sure, enclaves of European ethnics still exist in the older cities of the Northeast and the industrial Midwest. Likewise, traces of the culture that the immigrants brought with them—and of the circumstances under which they entered American society—persist despite the passage of time. Although some scholars in the early 1970s loudly trumpeted the revival of European ethnicity, hailing the “unmeltable ethnics,”¹ the last decade’s research convincingly showed otherwise. We now...


    • CHAPTER 15 Ethnicity and Opportunity in the Plural City
      (pp. 445-470)
      Roger Waldinger

      Boosterism has never been alien to Los Angeles, but the seemingly boundless prosperity of the 1980s–that last great expansionary wave–pushed it to new heights. “Just as New York, London and Paris stood as symbols of past centuries,” proclaimed the Final Report of the Los Angeles 2000 Committee, “Los Angeles will be THE city of the 21st century.”¹ Unlike past visions of Los Angeles as the best of all possible worlds, with no place for ethnic outsiders,LA 2000saw “a mosaic with every color distinct, vibrant, and essential to the whole” and embraced it. The newcomers transforming Southern...

  9. APPENDIX: Sources of Data, Group Definitions, and Measures
    (pp. 471-480)
  10. Index
    (pp. 481-497)