Gentrification and Women in STEM

In October of 2015, the Los Angeles Geographical Society (LAGS), continued their lecture series with a presentation by students from the Math, Science and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights.  This was the second time students from this school presented at LAGS.  You can read about the previous year’s projects here: “Social Inequalities and GIS“.

These students were part of the Youth Participatory Action Research, a service learning project.  They had to identify a problem and research it using GIS, creating maps to outline the issue they studied.  Three different groups presented projects. Two on gentrification and one on women in STEM.

The first project discussed gentrification, stating that “there is no replacement for displacement”.  The county of LA needs 4,000 units to meet the current housing need.  Most people pay too much for rent, amounting to about 30% of their paycheck.  This leaves little left for other expense, such as food.  This is thus a real problem for the community, impacting everyone.  The average income there is below $45,000 a year and the income needed is $90,000 in order to afford the average home cost of $200,000 and maintain taking care of a family and a mortgage.  The average renting costs is about $1,500 a month, while most people make about $3,000 a month.  This them amounts to half of the monthly paycheck going towards rent alone.

Three zip codes were examined for this study.  Each made less than $40,000 a year and rental prices are increasing.  Renters make up about 76% of the population and yet they are paying more than they should.  Predictions for 2020 show that income levels will stay the same while rents will continue to rise.  2010 saw a huge increase in rent costs with another 25% increase predicted for 2020.  As for affordable housing, most are found in Commerce, not in Boyle Heights.  There is one for seniors, which has only 46 units, which is part of the 52 total units of affordable housing found in Boyle Heights.  Predictions show that people will start to move away from these areas to places that they can afford, such as Riverside or the mountains.

Protester with sign. Image from Google Images.

Protester with sign. Image from Google Images.

The second project discussed women in STEM (science, technology, education and math).  The students originally wanted to use AP calculus scores by gender for their data, but it was not available due to privacy concerns.  Instead they looked at the average math scores from the California Exit Exam.  They also looked at the female to male teachers ratio to examine the influence on student academics.  Within East and South LA they also looked at Hispanic minority groups.  They found that the amount of community resources affects the student’s performance.  Areas with lower disparities showed girls that tended to score better on the exam.  The female teacher resource was also measured and it was found that there were limits due to budget and resources when it came to hiring and encouraging more female teachers in the math and sciences.

For the final project gentrification and income were discussed again, this time with more emphasis on business.  As of the time of the presentation, there were 35 vacant lots in Boyle Heights.  These lots can be an invitation for outsiders to purchase them and put up more expensive homes, which displaces the former residents.  Local businesses are also not getting enough business because people tend to go elsewhere to shop especially for clothing.  People will buy in other communities but not in Boyle Heights.

The students did a survey of over 400 businesses, asking about shopping preferences.  Less than 40% say they shop in Boyle Heights, showing that regular residents are not investing in their community, mainly because they are not having their needs met.  The high density of businesses has decreased from 2009 to 2015.  The local businesses are losing about 40% while the corporate ones are only losing about 14%.

Street art in Boyle Heights. Image from Google Images.

Street art in Boyle Heights. Image from Google Images.

At the end of the presentation, the students proposed some personal vs community solutions.  Personal: Pursue and entrepreneurship, be aware of the stores you buy your products from, and balance the stores in which you buy product from.  Community: know the demands of the community, and implement local stores.


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