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Falling diversity in Alhambra – as other Southland cities become more multiracial

Southland cities are becoming increasingly diverse, according to a report released last week from USC.

NPR's blog Multi-American points to Alhambra as an example of a multiracial city. “Right now, we’re at a sweet spot for racial balance in Southern California,” USC professor Dowell Myers, an author of the report, said in a press release. “Decline in the white population and growth among Latinos or Asians only increases racial balance up to a point. Some cities have already started to lose their balance.”

Amongst the cities trending in the direction of one minority dominating are Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Monterey Park.

Twenty years ago, Alhambra qualified, according to the study, as a city with three significant ethnic groups, when its white population was 24%, Latinos 36% and Asian 38%. Today, Alhambra is classified as a city with only two significant ethnic groups: In 2010, whites were 11%, Latinos 34% and Asians 54%. The shifts have been even stronger in San Gabriel and Monterey Park, where the Asian population is about two thirds of the population and Latino about one quarter.

The report makes the argument that a racially balanced or multiracial city is beneficial to residents: "Our democratic society benefits from greater contact among all groups of residents. Further, it is assumed that spatial intermixing of the population leads to more equal sharing of public resources."

San Gabriel cities ordered by Asian population.

Cities highlited in yellow are what the report defines as two-way cities, where there is a significant (20%+) population of two groups. Those highlighted in green are three-way cities, with two groups with 20%+ and one with 15%+. The cities not highlighted have one dominant ethnic group.

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7 thoughts on “Falling diversity in Alhambra – as other Southland cities become more multiracial”

  1. People can live where they want. Why place so much emphasis on race?

    These so-called “reports” from universities are annoying.

  2. These numbers do not mean Alhambra or Monterey Park are any less diverse. It fails to account for the variety of distinct sub-cultures represented, the different levels of assimilation and immigration status, and the diversity that springs. For example, there are Chinese from the many parts of China, Chinese from Hong Kong, Chinese from Taiwan. Add to that mix immigrants from other parts of Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia/Malaysia, etc). Not to mention, there are plenty of Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans born and raised here. A broad brush is often fine but sometimes it requires a peek behind the curtain to get the full picture. In this case, an analogy is saying the European continent as a whole is not diverse because most of the population are caucasian.

    1. daniela.gerson

      I'd agree — those are very good points. If I wrote the story again, I think I would choose a different title. 

  3. Human nature dictates what is best for a city. Anthropologically speaking, since prehistoric times, human beings were always tribal and congregated according to their parentage and culture. So, we are all respondents to thousands of years of DNA programming. That is why people today tend to gravitate in a natural direction. Plain old familiarity also has something to do with. So how can anyone declare that such natural occurring demographics are bad. Yes, harmony within a given population is desirable as well as beneficial to it. Many ancient cities and city/states in the Mediterranean have demonstrated the benefits of multicultural input so it is not a concept of something new as some social architects would have you believe. What should be pointed out is that most of the models of successful melting pots were created on a volunteer basis and grew by attracting more people of the same mentality. Yes, yes, yes, it is a mentality, not race, culture or a national origin that makes multicultural communities successful. Allowing people to freely make their choices such good can come about. Contrived meddling by social elitists will never attain the success created by free thinking individuals of all origins.

  4. MULTI-racial is great!

  5. I don’t have anything against racially balanced cities, but in some cases I don’t think it’s that bad to live in a “non-diverse” city like Monterey Park, where a typically minority population is in actual numbers, at least within the boundaries of the city, a majority. As long as it’s not limiting and people venture regularly outside their comfort zones and the cities they live in, it’s a nice opportunity for a minority population to live a majority lifestyle. Exhibit A for why it’s wonderful is in that 626 Fung Bros video. Maybe there needs to be a critical mass of a particular culture to produce the best that culture can offer. Yeah, maybe a few more generations in we’ll all be clamoring to be like Pasadena or South Pasadena where Trader Joes are as ubiquitous as 7-11s (people don’t seem to realize that immigrant groups assimilate alarmingly fast and a culture can easily be lost within a single generation, so I don’t think anyone really needs to worry about how we can’t speak English or can’t adopt American values), so I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts. If and when it changes I’ll try not grouse about it either.

  6. While race does indeed influence the demographic and cultural composition of a city, there are many other symbiotic factors that come into play. And although Alhambra ranks up there with a high Asian population, I don’t think that is an unhealthy imbalance.

    Cities are organic. Just like our bodies, they continously change. Afterall, we live in them. Our current racial make-up is a reflection of internal and external forces, of what works and what sometimes doesn’t. I’m sure Alhambra’s racial composition will continue to change in the future. Narrowing it down to just race does no service to our past, present, and future. It only serves as a catalyst to determine causal effects tied to our blood instead of what we actually do as residents to make our cities thrive.

    Is a racially-balanced city beneficial to residents? It depends on many things from the races involved (number of family generations, religion, education levels, median income tied to local economies, etc.) Having more diverse racial contact can indeed be beneficial, but contact in itself doesn’t create harmony. Again, many factors come into play. In my opinion, USC professor Myers idea of a “sweet spot” relates to nothing more than window dressing our region’s racial composition.

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