Changing Faces, Changing Places: Mapping Southern Californians

byJames P. Allen and Eugene Turner, The Center for Geographical Studies, CSUN, 2002, ISBN 0965696626 (pbk.), 60 pages, $24.95.

Those of us who attended the Loyola meeting will remember the two professors from Cal State Northridge who specialize in watching changes in the ethnic makeup of Southern California. Their first book, “The Ethnic Quilt”, 1997, CSUN, gave us an overview of a great many ethnic populations based on the 1990 census. It also went into the history of the populations shifts happening over the prior fifty years.

This latest book updates the figures based on the 2000 census and looks at changes in the last ten years. Now in many areas of our country changes over a ten year period might be barely perceptible. Not so in Southern California. A map covered with red dots to indicate gains of 100 Hispanic persons per census tract over those ten years looks like an angry rash across the face of the land. Similarly, another map showing in blue the loss of 100 non-Hispanic white persons per tract is almost as dense. And similarly, the black population change has been away from the central city to the outer suburbs in rather large numbers. Not surprising, but indicating a much wider acceptance.

The Asian population, less than 3 percent in 1980, is now over 11 percent, outnumbering Blacks. Their groupings are interesting because of their own ethnic separations. Chinese heaviest in Monterey Park, Koreans in Koreatown, Vietnamese around Westminster, Japanese in Gardena & Torrance. The authors point out these are not ghettos by any stretch of the imagination, but enclaves who choose to live together, in fact strive to live together.

The Ethnic Quilt suffered from being only 9 x 11 inches, with most maps 7-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches in size. The new 11 x 15 inch format, landscape and spiral bound, most maps being 9-1/2 x 12-1/2 inches in size and lying flat. Wonderful for viewing maps, but like so many books printed today, difficult to fit in a bookcase.

The authors have limited their analysis this time to the major ethnic groups which may disappoint those looking for centers of, say, Armenian Ancestry. However, their conclusion is generally encouraging in that mobility out of poor enclaves seems entirely possible for many who might have never made it before. The influx of Hispanics has had a decided affect there as it has on every aspect of life in Southern California. Several generations from now will see their political presence felt as they learn the importance of voting.

Jim Allen and Gene Turner have provided a most interesting analysis of the great mixing bowl many of us live in here in Southern California. Any work which enhances our understanding of each other can be considered a success. We look forward to the next obvious extension based on the 2010 census, and hope we’re all around to review it.

Bill Warren
From Society’s September 2003 Newsletter