Jan Lin and Paul Robinson “Spatial Disparities in the Chinese Ethnoburb”

Similarly to Portes and Manning, Jan Lin and Paul Robinson analyzed US Census data from 1990 to 2000 and found data trends contradicting the traditional sociological thought that ethnic enclaves would eventually spatially and socially assimilate into mainstream American culture. Investigating the migration patterns of Chinese immigrants of the San Gabriel Valley in California led Lin and Robinson to discover unassimilated, spatially defined suburban immigrant enclaves, termed ethnoburbs. The researchers argue that ethnoburbs consist of middle and upper class settlements that developed as a result of historical shifts brought about by the civil rights movement as well as urban-level trends that created a shift from urbanized core ethnic enclaves to outer fringe immigrant areas, as can be seen in Chinese immigrant areas of Los Angeles.

Historically, the Chinese immigrants settled on the American west coast with a large concentration in urban areas in California.  As immigrants assimilate to American culture and language, it is expected that they begin to move out of the urban enclaves and move to less homogenous neighborhoods. However, in the Los Angeles Census data from 1990 to 2000, the researchers found that rather than dispersing upon outmigration from the central urban areas, Chinese immigrants that moved from Chinatown Los Angeles gravitated toward ethnic  suburban enclaves, or ethnoburbs, northeast of the city. The migration patterns continued outwardly from this ethnoburban core east to fringe districts.

Differences in median income, levels of educational attainment and assimilation were found among the immigrant residents of the ethnoburban core and the two fringe areas. Residents of the seven core cities had lower levels of socioeconomic status and education levels as compared to immigrants living in the northwest and east fringe districts, with San Marino having the highest levels of education and median income. San Marino had the third highest rate of immigrants speaking only English. Unlike the Jewish immigrants discussed by Portes and Manning, economically successful Chinese immigrants of the northwest fringe areas shed their Chinese languages in exchange for English. Homeownership rates were fairly high among all areas; similar to other immigrant groups in this week’s readings, Chinese immigrants quickly accumulated capital and secured means necessary for upward social mobility. Between 1980 and 1990, homeownership rates grew by 72% as compared to just 57% for native-born whites.

The researchers conclude that two avenues for social mobility exist in the Chinese ethnoburbs of LA; either through cultural assimilation and higher education attainment or live in ethnic enclaves of the core ethnoburb where levels of assimilation and education do not preclude Chinese immigrants from attaining it.

One thought on “Jan Lin and Paul Robinson “Spatial Disparities in the Chinese Ethnoburb”

  • November 8, 2015 at 11:58 am

    The authors also discussed the “Anti-Foreigner” ideology held by some American neighbors displayed by a referendum introduced to require English-only and a movement to restrict immigration into the area.
    Thanks in part to the laws enacted due to the Civil Rights Act e.g. Fair Housing Act, many immigrants were able to move right into the suburbs instead of going directly into the core of the city. Also, L.A. still had restrictive covenants on residential property which limited where immigrants could purchase homes.

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