USC Price School of Public Policy

USC Study Shows Southern California Cities More Multiracial

USC Study Shows Southern California Cities More Multiracial

By Merrill Balassone

Dowell Myers Lead author Dowell Myers
Photo by Philip Channing

Southern California cities are now significantly more multiracial than 20 years ago, according to a new USC analysis released on March 1.

The percentage of multiracial cities in the five-county area climbed from 51.2 percent to 61.5 percent from 1990 to 2010, the report by the Population Dynamics Research Group at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy showed.

“Los Angeles is leading the nation once again in this multiracial experience,” said lead author Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at USC Price.

“Right now, we’re at a sweet spot for racial balance in Southern California,” Myers said. “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.”

Multiracial cities have significant populations of at least two and as many as four major racial groups, according to the report.

Both Orange and Riverside counties steadily became more multiracial from 1990 to 2010, with increasing numbers of both Latino and Asian residents in Orange County and Latino residents in Riverside County.

In 2010, 61.8 percent of cities in Orange County and 80.8 percent of Riverside County cities were multiracial.

But rising Latino and Asian populations also caused some cities to lose their racial balance, including five cities in Los Angeles County – Azusa, Cerritos, Downey, Lawndale and Walnut.

The report – “Racially Balanced Cities in Southern California, 1999 to 2010” – uses census data from 1990, 2000 and 2010 to make a county-by-county breakdown of cities and their respective balances of white, Latino, black and Asian and Pacific Islander groups.

Among the other findings:

  • Ten cities in Los Angeles County attained a balance of all four ethnic groups in 2010, including the two largest — Los Angeles and Long Beach.
  • The number of Orange County cities with significant populations of three major ethnic groups rose dramatically, from two in 1999 to 12 in 2010. Those cities include Anaheim, Brea and Placentia, with growing groups of Asian and Pacific Islanders, and La Palma, which had a jump in Latino residents.
  • In 2010, Riverside County had the highest percentage of multiracial cities in Southern California, with 21 of its 26 incorporated cities earning this status.
  • For the first time in recent decades, San Bernardino County in 2010 had three cities (Highland, Loma Linda and Rancho Cucamonga) with significant populations of all four racial groups.
  • Ventura County remained stable with six of 10 cities staying multiracial from 2000 to 2010, but Camarillo and Simi Valley replaced Oxnard and Santa Paula on that list.

Myers is director of the Population Dynamics Research Group and a specialist in urban growth and development with expertise as a planner and urban demographer. He has been an adviser to the U.S. Census Bureau and authored Analysis With Local Census Data: Portraits of Change (Academic Press, 1992), the most widely referenced work on census analysis.

Recent research projects have focused on the upward mobility of immigrants to Southern California, as well as on projections of the impacts of a growing California population.

Myers collaborated on the report with USC graduate students Linda Lou, Hyojung Lee and Anthony Guardado.

A copy of the full report is available at usc.edu/schools/sppd/research/popdynamics/