Ethnicity in Los Angeles

In September of 2015, the Los Angeles Geographical Society (LAGS), began their lecture series with a presentation by Gary Booher, a former professor at El Camino college and former president of LAGS.  His lecture was titled: “The End of the Rainbow: Ethnicity in Los Angeles”.

He began the lecture by discussing the diversity of people in California compared to the US.  California aka the “Golden State” is #1 in population with 38 million people.  It’s #3 in area after Alaska and Texas and #8 in economy with $2.3 trillion.  The US as a whole makes $18.1 trillion (the highest of any country).  China comes in second with $11.2 trillion and Japan is third with $4.2 trillion.  California’s economy is between India ($2.3) and Brazil.

Moving on to California’s population, 27% of it is foreign born while over 50% is native born.  This is the highest for both categories in 100 years.  Not many people come to California from other states (19%).  In recent years there has been a net migration of people moving out of California.  When it comes to California immigrants it’s considered a destination for migrants, mainly Spanish/Mexican.  Looking back to earlier US history, the government pushed people to move out west partially because of the Gold Rush.  There were also those who were health seekers, moving to California because of its good climate.  Some say it was the climate for health and wealth.  Railroads were selling land for this reason.  This created jobs and as it become seen as the land of plenty, more international migration occurred.

Since the 1970s, 30-40% of US immigration has been to California with 80% from Asia and Latin America.  As for languages, 2/3 spoken is Spanish with a large amount of Chinese, Taglog (mainly spoken in the Philippines) and other Asian languages.  Thus it’s no surprise that California is more diverse than the US as a whole.  In 2014, Latinos became the largest minority group with 80% found in Imperial County and 50% in LA County.  The estimate for 2050-2060 is that Latinos will be the majority in the state.

According to the US Census, Latinos/Hispanics currently stand at 39%.  San Joaquin Valley has the highest percentage due to farm jobs.  LA has about 50% and most come from Mexico.  The White population stands at 38% with most located in northern, rural California.  Asian/Pacific Islanders account for 14% and can be found in the San Francisco Bay area as well as LA, San Diego and Orange County.  The majority of these are Chinese thanks to the Gold Rush.  Miners eventually pushed them out of mining so they found other jobs.  Two examples were the need for cheap railroad labor and the abundance of Chinese laundry services.  This huge flow of Chinese immigrants though led to backlash and in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese laborers as immigrants but not as citizens.  This was later deemed racist and the law was repealed in 1943.  Black/African American account for only 6% of the population, mostly found in LA and Oakland (East Bay) area.  The Native American population is the smallest at 1% and most can be found within cities.

The following table shows the population statistics for various locations within California and the US as a whole.

Information provided by Gary Booher. Table created by Laylita Day.

Information provided by Gary Booher. Table created by Laylita Day.

When it comes to Southern California, one can find many multi-ethnic cities and there are more now than 20 or even 10 years ago.  There have been many changes in neighborhoods and cities over time in part because of gentrification. More Whites and Asians are  moving into the inner cities while Latinos leave.  Here is a quick breakdown of the changes in diversity over the decades.

1940: The majority was White with only three areas that Blacks could live because of deed restrictions (could only sell homes to Whites).  The law later changed in 1947-48.

1950: Here we start to see an expansion of Blacks thanks to industry jobs.  There were no other racial categories used at this time, just Black and White.

1960:  Black population expansion continued and a new racial category appeared called “Spanish Surname“.  This category could also include Filipinos.

1970: Now there are categories for Hispanic and “API” (Asian Pacific Islander).  The central LA area starts to show large concentrations of Blacks and Hispanics.

1980: This time shows the greatest extent of the Black population.  There is also an expansion of the Latino and Asian populations.

1990: At this point the Black population starts to shrink and Latinos take over former Black areas and there are more Asians as well.

2000: The Hispanic population continues to grow while the Black population continues to shrink.  The Asian population slowly increases.

Copy of the 2010 US Census Race Questions Form. Image from Google Images.

Copy of the 2010 US Census Race Questions Form. Image from Google Images.

2010: Now there is even more of a decrease in the Black population (especially in Inglewood).  The Latino population increase in Inglewood but also in other areas as well.


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