From Warm to Cold in LA: Exploring the Range of Reactions to Ethnic Diversification in Los Angeles Suburbs after 1970

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:50 AM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago)
Becky Nicolaides, University of California, Los Angeles and Huntington-USC Institute on California & the West
While suburban diversity has been with us for over a century, after 1970 the trend toward ethnic, racial, and class diversification in American suburbs increased exponentially. This paper explores how these dynamics played out across the suburbs of Los Angeles since 1970. It begins with an overview of demographic transformations across L.A.’s suburbs from 1970 to 2000, to set the scene. Then, it explores a kind of “continuum” of receptivity to ethnic change in suburban communities that transitioned from lily-white to multi-ethnic. Ethnic lifeways and landscapes were allowed to flourish fully in some areas. For example, in the “ethnoburbs” of the San Gabriel Valley or the spaces of “enacted Latino landscapes” in East and South Los Angeles, ethnicity was continually infused by new transnational flows of immigrants, their capital and culture. Local regulations allowed for a freer expression of ethnic culture, and ethnic capital investment fostered its growth. In other areas, ethnicity was suppressed in everyday lives and landscapes, in favor of existing suburban practices and aesthetics. Significant was the fact that in some cases, that suppression was done by new ethnic suburbanites shaping policy at the local level. This paper will explore evidence across this spectrum. It will reflect on how suburban space was being racialized in new ways by new players, and how this contributed to the reproduction of metropolitan inequality in the midst of profound demographic change.