Do Alhambra neighbors talk to each other?

Journalists, communication researchers and Alhambra residents initiated the Alhambra Source in an effort to create a local news website that responds to community concerns. The University of Southern California Annenberg Metamorphosis research group post insights gleaned through our work. As we share what we have learned, we hope you will let us know what you think through comments.

Whether or not you talk to your neighbor of a different ethnicity appears to break down along ethnic lines in Alhambra.

Residents of Anglo, Latino and Chinese backgrounds all said that ethnic Chinese are the least active when it comes to reaching out to neighbors of a different ethnicity. These is a key finding from seven focus group discussions conducted with a total of 91 Alhambra residents in May 2009. Residents of Anglo, Latino and ethnic Chinese (i.e. both Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese) backgrounds were recruited to share their views on neighborhood communication dynamics and civic engagement patterns in Alhambra. The results point to interesting cross-ethnic similarities and differences.

Across groups, most participants perceived their neighbors to be friendly. However, many participants reported not having many chances to interact with neighbors because they rarely saw one another. When neighbors did get an opportunity to talk, their conversations were frequently about crime and safety issues. It was also common for neighbors to engage in simple greetings, small talk or favor-asking during their interaction.

When explaining their limited interaction with neighbors, several participants said that everyone seemed to be waiting for others to break the ice. When asked about the tendency for ethnic Chinese to be more ethnically-exclusive in their neighborly interaction, some Chinese participants stated that Chinese were typically 'introverts,' which made it hard for them to reach out to other ethnic groups. Furthermore, several said that they did not share similar cultural concerns and community interests with neighbors of another ethnicity so it was less satisfying to talk with them.

On the other hand, Anglo and Latino participants considered low-English proficiency the key factor that prevented ethnic Chinese from reaching out to others. When describing the interaction between ethnic Chinese and Anglo residents, an Anglo stated: ‘I think there is no bad feeling, but there is not as much association. You don’t just hang out with them: they’re there; you’re here.’

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