Photo: Research Finds Immigrants Build Stronger, Safer Communities in Southern California
UCI prepares first regional progress report on socioeconomic, quality-of-life trends
Contrary to some perceptions, the large influx of Asian and Latino immigrants into Southern California over the past 50 years has resulted in stronger and safer multicultural communities, according to a report to be released next week by UC Irvine.
High levels of ethnic mixing were found to be associated with increased property values, lower joblessness and less crime in many areas throughout the five counties.
The inaugural Southern California Regional Progress Report was prepared by researchers with the School of Social Ecology’s Metropolitan Futures Initiative, which aims to build a base of knowledge to guide policymakers in improving the overall quality of life in the Southland.
Five faculty members, 10 graduate students and six undergraduates collected data from 14 sources on the region’s demographic, social and economic landscape. It allows for systematic statistical analyses at the county, city, neighborhood and street-block levels.
The report draws on this unprecedented data set to examine the interrelationships among such community factors as racial/ethnic demographics, employment and economic welfare, housing density and availability, crime and public safety, and land use.
It’s intended to serve as a catalyst for evidence-based dialogue that will inform planning for the future. Subsequent biennial reports will continue to monitor trends and expand the domain of coverage to include, for example, health and welfare.
UCI Chancellor Michael Drake will host a breakfast event to release and discuss the Metropolitan Futures Initiative report on Thursday, June 14, at the UCI Student Center.
“This inaugural study provides a wealth of findings on the area’s changing landscape – findings that constitute crucial considerations for successfully planning a future with healthy, sustainable, affordable, safe, economically vibrant and just communities in which residents enjoy the many benefits of Southern California,” said Valerie Jenness, dean of UCI’s School of Social Ecology.
“These reports will provide policymakers, businesses, residents and others with essential information and thoughtful analyses about our region for years to come.”
The soon-to-be-released study examines data from the past 50 years to paint a broad yet incisive picture of Southern California. Researchers compiled the data in metropolitan clusters by grouping together cities that are geographically close and socially similar. Among the findings:
The ethnic makeup of Southern California has changed dramatically during the past five decades: Latino and Asian populations have grown substantially; the African American population has become concentrated within fewer communities; and the proportion of whites has steadily decreased.
South Central Los Angeles provides a glimpse of the changing landscape: African Americans made up the majority of residents in 1960, with Latinos accounting for 8.5 percent of the population. In 2007, the area was 80 percent Latino and just 15 percent African American.
The burgeoning immigrant population in Southern California communities has contributed to increases in property values and decreases in crime rates. Southern California air quality has improved dramatically over the past three decades.
Neighborhoods with 10 percent more Latinos than surrounding areas at the beginning of the 2000s experienced a 1.3 percent greater increase in home values over the decade.
Similarly, ethnically mixed neighborhoods in Southern California today are more likely to have higher property values than homogenous neighborhoods, reversing a trend from earlier decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, neighborhoods with higher levels of racial/ethnic mixing at the beginning of the decade experienced lower home value appreciation over the following 10 years.
There is evidence of a revival in downtown Los Angeles, as the inner city has become a hub of mixed land uses and a 24-hour lifestyle. Violent crime downtown fell from 350 percent higher than the region average in 1990 to just 67 percent above the average in 2010 – during a period in which crime rates in general were trending downward. Meanwhile, rates for both the northeast San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Hills dropped from double or triple the average in 1990 to average levels in 2010. Rates for the Westside and Westwood/Beverly Hills areas fell from about average in 1990 to half the average in 2010.
The foreclosure crisis has begun to abate but has had a sizeable impact on home values throughout affected areas. Hardest hit were residents of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Foreclosure rates also correlated strongly to falling home values throughout the region.
Home ownership corresponds to lower crime rates; a higher number of vacant units equates to higher crime rates.
In the city clusters within Los Angeles County, a large proportion of areas (17 of 24) showed year-over-year increases in average commute time between 1980 and 2007. The Claremont cluster had the lowest average commute time (25.4 minutes) in 2007, with the Glendale cluster close behind (25.7 minutes). The Lancaster cluster, an exurban area with comparatively low home values and fewer available jobs, had the highest average commute time in the county (36.4 minutes) in 2007.
Los Angeles County had 6.6 million vehicles registered in 2007. Only six states – Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – had more vehicles registered. It should be no surprise that the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area is the nation’s most traffic-congested.
A 10 percent increase in nearby job density reduces a given household’s annual vehicle miles traveled by an average of 1.58 percent.
“A number of findings took us by surprise,” said John Hipp, associate professor of criminology, law & society who led the team of researchers behind the Southern California Regional Progress Report. “We’re looking forward to more extensively analyzing the data to better understand many of the changes that have shaped the region over time.”