Here’s How Los Angeles Is Re-Segregating

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In a report that came out early last month, two sociologists, Michael DM Bader and Siri Warkentien, found that while LA had a relatively significant portion of diverse, racially mixed neighborhoods, around 40 percent racially diverse neighborhoods were on track to becoming more segregated. How exactly is this happening?

In an op-ed in the LA Times today, Bader goes into detail on how that plays out in the LA area, and what drives these mixed neighborhoods to become more homogenous. Bader says that “vast portions of south and east Los Angeles are slipping from mixed populations toward single race populations,” and uses Compton as an example.

In 1980, Compton’s population was almost 75 percent black, but in 1990, that had decreased to about 52 percent black and 43 percent Latino. In 2014, Compton was about 66 percent Latino. “Such slow but steadily increasing Latino growth can be found in 46% of the neighborhoods we studied in the Los Angeles metropolitan region,” Bader says.

A map from the report Bader coauthored.
A map from the report Bader coauthored.
Neighborhood Trajectories

Immigration plays a big part in the trend because recent immigrants, Bader argues, tend to move into neighborhoods where people from their country or similar backgrounds are already established. Bader has seen this play out not only with Latino immigrants but with immigrants from Asian countries, and cites Cerritos, where Asian immigrants rose from 44 percent of the populace in 1990 to 62 percent in 2014.

In their own way, white people are kind of doing the same thing. When white people move, they tend to “[choose] new neighborhoods with same-race neighbors.” That finding on its own looks bad (the study termed this phenomenon “white avoidance”), but Bader says that this happens because whites simply aren’t familiar with more mixed areas, and therefore aren’t really aware of them as options. The exception here would be in gentrifying neighborhoods, but there are way more neighborhoods segregating than there are gentrifying, Bader notes.

It’s worth noting that Bader and his co-author’s report also found that LA’s moving toward becoming less racially mixed, it’s still the most integrated of the four major cities the report looked at (the other three were New York, Chicago, Houston). Their findings also differ from a 2015 study that found that LA’s neighborhoods were actually getting less segregated.

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