A Call to Action Two-day UCLA Luskin Lecture event champions academic research to help community activists promote societal change to address issues such as inequality, urban displacement and California’s ongoing housing affordability crisis

By Cristina Barrera and Les Dunseith

In Los Angeles during a time that is so rife with political conflict, it’s hard to find a topic upon which everyone seems to agree. But UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy quickly honed in on just such an issue during her opening remarks at a two-day event convened by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, speaks during the recent Luskin Lecture “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities.” Photo by Les Dunseith

“Rent is too damn high,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin.

Her declaration generated rousing applause from the crowd of about 250 students, scholars, community organizers, local residents and other stakeholders who gathered on April 26-27, 2018, at L.A. Trade Technical College near downtown Los Angeles to ponder the lack of affordable housing and other issues that are of special importance to residents in lower-income areas such as South L.A.

Participants in the event, “Black, Brown, and Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities,” also learned of recent research and discussed solutions to problems such as urban displacement, racialized policing, criminal justice debt, forced labor, and the mass supervision and control of youth.

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura welcomed the crowd, telling them that the event was part of the Luskin Lecture Series, which is intended to enhance public discourse for the betterment of society.

“The Luskin School is home to three public-facing departments. I want to emphasize that — public facing,” Segura said. “I like to say that the Luskin School of Public Affairs puts the public back in public higher education research institution.”

Roy said one of the goals of the institute she directs is to share “freedom dreams” through research and teaching. “We borrow this beautiful phrase, freedom dreams, from our rock at UCLA, Robin D.G. Kelley,” said Roy, referring to writings by the esteemed UCLA distinguished professor of U.S. history.Freedom, Robin notes, is an integral part of the black radical tradition and its global imagination.”

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy is certain that “university-based theory and research has a role to play in transforming unequal cities,” Roy said. “But II&D is also certain that this role can only be meaningful when it is in humble partnership with social movements and community-based organizations that are on the frontlines of struggle.”

Photos from the event:

Freedom Dreams

Holding the event at L.A Trade Tech rather than on the UCLA campus was about more than geography.

“Here in South L.A., there are fierce struggles for self-determination, for black and brown power, for resistance in defiance of banishment,” Roy said.

Over the course of one evening and almost a full day of programming that followed, attendees heard from a variety of speakers and engaged in discussions during workshops that included representatives not only from UCLA and L.A. Trade Tech, but also from the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Urban Habitat, Right to the City Alliance, and a wide variety of community-based organizations such as the Watts Leadership Institute and Loving Hands Community Care.

Attendees also were treated to music and dance from “Lockdown Unplugged” by Bryonn Bain & the Lyrics Crew. Funmilola Fagbamila, a founding member of Black Lives Matter LA, also presented a stirring spoken-word performance derived from her recent play, “Woke Black Folk.”

In addition to Roy and Segura, speakers from UCLA included:

  • Paul M. Ong, professor emeritus of urban planning, social welfare and Asian American students and the director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who spoke about recent research that found little progress in improving the lives of residents in South L.A since the Kerner Commission report in the 1960s.
  • Manuel Criollo, activist-in-residence at II&D, who talked about his research into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline that often results when school police officers focus primarily on punishing youthful offenders rather than dealing with the underlying societal issues that lead many youth to commit antisocial acts.
  • Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and director of the Watts Leadership Institute, who was joined on-stage by Kathy Wooten of Loving Hands Community Care for a discussion of that nonprofit organization’s efforts to serve families of murder victims, specifically mothers who have lost a child to violence.
  • Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director at the UCLA Labor Center and director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, who noted that 50 percent of black workers in South L.A. are either unemployed or earning subminimum wage.

The second day of the event focused heavily on problem-solving strategies and advice for organizing to promote solutions. Three separate workshops took place, producing discussions about the shared vision of many attendees to use research and analysis as a foundation to build proposals that will result in meaningful societal change.

A wrap-up session was moderated by Roy and Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

The event was an opportunity “to be and think together,” Roy said, “in what is often a divided city with dispersed urban life. Now at II&D we take up some new mandates of research and action that emerged from this convening.”

Additional participants at the event included T.R.U.S.T. South LA, Union de Vecinos, Time for Change, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, L.A. Coop Lab, Long Beach Residents Empowered, THRIVE Santa Ana, Right to the City Alliance, CD Tech, A New Way of Life Re-entry Project, Back on the Road Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Debt Collective, Million Dollar Hoods, Journey House, Social Justice Advocate, Urban Youth Collaborative, #cut50, Underground Scholars Initiative, Black Organizing Project and InsideOut Writers.

Visit the II&D website for workshop reports.

On-camera interviews:

Recordings of the live streaming that took place each day:

Day 1

Day 2

New Study Documents Lack of Economic Progress in South L.A. Over the Past 50 Years Researchers at UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge list inequities in wages, housing, education and transportation

In the half-century since the Kerner Commission’s report on urban unrest, South Los Angeles has experienced little economic progress, according to a new study by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, part of UCLA Luskin.

In 1960, South L.A. workers made 80 cents on the dollar compared to the average Los Angeles County worker. In the last 50 years, that gap has widened. Today, the average full-time, full-year worker in South L.A. earns about 60 cents on every dollar earned by the average county resident.

“This report is a sobering snapshot of the inequalities that have persisted in South Los Angeles 50 years since the 1968 report,” said Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.  Disparities in earnings are the main driver of income inequality. Earnings are critical in overall quality of life — low earnings can translate into less access to necessities, amenities, and opportunities.

Earnings in South L.A. have failed to catch up to county levels, according to the researchers. That widening pay gap is driven in part by a steady decline of male wages.

South Los Angeles is home to 722,000 persons, and epitomizes the plight of inner-city neighborhoods. It is the site where frustrations of a marginalized and neglected community boiled over in 1965 Watts riots and 1992 civil unrest. These reactions to the lack of progress should not have been unexpected given the realities documented by this CNK report.

In addition to earnings, the study also documents inequities in:

Housing

Homeownership, the principal mechanism for wealth accumulation for middle-class residents, is lower in South L.A. than the county and has declined over time. Today, fewer than one in three South L.A. residents own their home.

The high demand for housing has translated not only to higher cost but also higher home values. After adjusting for inflation, the average home is priced at nearly three times as much today as it was in 1960. This places financial strain on new buyers and puts ownership further out of reach for renters.

Transportation

Car ownership is critical in Los Angeles where, despite large investments in public transit, lacking a car can severely limit one’s access to job and educational opportunities. Availability of cars within households has improved over time; nonetheless, households in South LA are twice as likely to lack a car, according to the study. South LA residents remain three times as likely to rely on public transit for commuting.

Education

Educational attainment is critical in preparing children to be successful and productive adults. However, public schools have continued to be “separate and unequal.” Elementary school performance on standardized testing reveals persistent gaps between South LA and the most affluent neighborhoods in West L.A.

Early childhood preparation can be critical toward the goal of fostering successful students. Fifty years ago, recommendations concerning education specifically prioritized the expansion of preschool programs. In 1960, preschool enrollment was virtually non-existent in both South L.A. and the county.

In 1990, children in South L.A. were only half as likely as county children to be enrolled in a private preschool. This can be taken as an indicator of the wide gaps in the availability of resources for education to residents in South L.A. compared to the county. This gap has grown since then. In 2016, county children are four times as likely as South L.A. children to be enrolled in a private preschool.

View the full report.

Technical note

There are no definitive boundaries for South Los Angeles. Over time, the boundaries have shifted as the neighborhood has changed. This study is based on public use microdata areas (PUMAs), which are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. These are reasonable approximations of the curfew area for the 1965 Watts Riot, the post-1992 Civil Unrest Rebuild L.A. zone, and the Los Angeles Times Neighborhood Mapping Project’s South Los Angeles area.

All data, with the exception of school performance, come from PUMS samples. The 1960 data are extracted from IPUMS. Additional data come from tract-level statistics reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Data on elementary school performance combine assessment scores from California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting with historical information of schools, reported in the 1965 McCone Report.

This project was supported by the following partners: the Haynes Foundation, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, the UCLA Lewis Center, the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Professor Manisha Shah, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Disadvantages Persist in Neighborhoods Impacted by 1992 L.A. Riots Little economic progress is found in areas most impacted 25 years ago by civil uprisings, UCLA Luskin researchers report

By Stan Paul

A new report by UCLA Luskin researchers finds that despite initiatives launched by community groups, foundations and governmental agencies in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, little has changed economically within the city’s most-damaged areas.

It has been 25 years since the tumultuous events that followed the acquittal of LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King. In addition to more than 50 people who died and thousands of arrests, there was an estimated more than $1 billion in damage in and around South Los Angeles during the days-long riots, which garnered worldwide attention.

“By and large, these areas have not gotten better; in some instances, they have actually gotten worse,” said Paul Ong, director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK), who led a research team in assessing the condition of these areas over 25 years. The CNK is based at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Ong said the team examined demographic and economic data related to the area of the Rebuild L.A. program boundaries that were drawn up in 1992 in the aftermath of the civil unrest. These were based in part on curfew boundaries from the Watts riots in 1965, said Ong, also a professor of urban planning and social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The study is based on analysis of multiple data sources, and the researchers conducted separate analyses for six sub-regions. The work required extensive efforts to reconcile changes in census boundaries during the past two-and-a-half decades to ensure accurate statistics. The report, which was co-sponsored by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, shows that with the exception of the northeast section of South Los Angeles, unemployment and poverty have worsened in the remaining areas — traditionally among the most disadvantaged areas of the city.

In these areas, Ong said he suspects that “bigger forces were working against them,” such as lingering effects of the recession and growing inequality, which has affected L.A. County in general.

According to the report, per capita retail sales in these areas have fallen, due in part to a relative paucity of larger retailers in the area.

The team also noted that in 1992 South Los Angeles was predominantly African-American but is now home to Hispanics in higher proportions.

Ong said the study is unique in compiling statistics from three sources: the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, the Korea Central Daily newspaper in Los Angeles and the California Department of Insurance. This information showed that all areas were not affected equally.

The data focuses on communities in which organizations seeking to improve neighborhoods have energized and encouraged change, Ong said. “Without these efforts, the neighborhoods would likely be in far worse economic shape,” according to the report.

Findings and recommendations from the report include:

  • A renewed commitment to revitalizing the affected areas is critical to reshaping their future economic trajectories.
  • Renewed stakeholder efforts to address development challenges are integral.
  • People and place strategies should be inclusive, driven by local residents, leaders, businesses and organizations.

“The lesson of the last quarter-century is that much more work is needed,” Ong said.

View and download the report

 

 

 

 

 

Examining Voting in L.A. at the Neighborhood Level Researchers at UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge produce maps to document the county’s voter trends and behavior

By Stan Paul

All politics is local.

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) have taken that phrase to heart in an effort to determine the impact of voter behavior.

Silvia Gonzalez, an Urban Planning Ph.D. student at Luskin, and fellow CNK researchers have gathered data to create a map of all eligible voters by neighborhood in Los Angeles County. That data was then filtered to produce maps showing the percentage of registered voters and actual voters who turn out at the polls.

“My doctoral studies focus broadly on understanding patters of socioeconomic inequality, how these are constructed and reproduced in societal, economic and political context,” Gonzalez wrote in her proposal for a UCLA summer research mentor fellowship grant. Gonzalez, who also is assistant director of CNK, said that her interest is in “community power,” including the impact of voting.

The team has culled data on areas of Los Angeles with various majority ethnic groups, such as Latinos, who represent a significant percentage of the L.A. population. Other areas studied include those with a majority population of Asian, African American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White.

“This work will help organizations dedicated to political and civic engagement, and will show where there are opportunities to increase those rates,” said Paul Ong, CNK director and professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Asian American studies at UCLA. The data show general trends and also voter behavior within various groups, said Ong, who is serving as Gonzalez’s faculty mentor.

For example, by creating a gender parity index that reflects the level of female voter participation compared to men, the researchers studied who is more likely to vote in L.A. County. Turns out that it’s women, following a nationwide trend, according to Gonzalez and her CNK colleagues.

Among voters of all ages, the CNK researchers found that in Los Angeles, 52 percent of millennials (ages 21-34) registered in both 2012 and 2015 had not voted in the 2012 election cycle. About 1.1 million were registered in both 2012 and 2015. Actual voting percentages increased progressively in older age categories with seniors (65+) having the highest registration-to-voter turnout ratio, with voters comprising about 75 percent of the more than 850,000 registered in 2012 and 2015. More total millennials were registered, however, so the actual turnout between millennials and seniors was relatively similar in number, according to the researchers.

Ong said that this is a long-term project with a goal of building a database and disseminating results that the public will find useful. “We are very interested how political engagement plays out for communities,” he said.

The impact of their research on this year’s general election in November may not be that significant, Ong, said, but it may prove useful in the long term. The researchers will integrate neighborhood voting patterns from November’s election as soon as the data becomes available.

Team members include Gonzalez; Alycia Cheng, CNK analyst; and C. Aujean Lee, CNK research assistant and Urban Planning doctoral candidate.

Data sources for the maps included the October 2015 voter registration roll counts and November 2012 voter history file from the L.A. County Registrar, the 2010-14 American Community Survey population estimates by tract and the 2006 L.A. County Geographic Information System (GIS) data portal. Low population or non-urban areas were excluded.

The maps may be viewed online.

The mission of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge is to conduct basic and applied research on the socioeconomic formation and internal dynamics of neighborhoods, and how these collective spatial units are positioned and embedded in the Southern California region. The CNK emphasizes the study of diversity, differences and disparities among neighborhoods, and it explicitly covers immigrant enclaves and minority communities.

CNK examines neighborhoods through multidisciplinary lenses and through collaboration with community partners. Equally important, CNK is dedicated to translating its findings into actionable neighborhood-related policies and programs, and to contributing to positive social change.

Gentrification and Displacement in Southern California UCLA urban planners release online mapping tool to help analyze impact of developments near Los Angeles area transit projects. The goal? ‘Progress that is fair and just’

By Stan Paul

A team of researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has created an interactive mapping tool to help community leaders better understand the effects of new light-rail and subway projects and related developments — especially on low-income communities.

Researchers view the project as a resource to help communities and policymakers identify the pressures associated with development and figure out how to take more effective action to ensure that new construction isn’t always accompanied by current residents being priced out of their neighborhoods.

The Southern California portion of the joint UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project on gentrification and displacement in urban communities is available online.

“There has been a strong interest in neighborhoods around subway stations and light-rail stops,” said Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a professor of Urban Planning. “These locations have the potential for extensive private investments because transit gives people an alternative to using cars. This is particularly attractive to today’s young professionals.”

However, according to Ong, the downside to this “upscaling” is that changing the character of a neighborhood with additional transportation options can lead to lower-income disadvantaged households being pushed out.

“Sometimes, landlords aggressively — and perhaps illegally — force them out,” said Ong, who is also a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Higher rents make it difficult for low-income households to move into the neighborhood, so we see a net decline in their numbers. They are replaced by those who can afford the higher housing cost — people referred to as ‘gentrifiers.’”

Ong said that most of those who can afford higher housing costs do not purposefully want to displace people living in poorer households, “but, nonetheless, gentrifiers are a part of the larger socioeconomic process.” The goal of the Urban Displacement Project, according to the researchers, is not to stop neighborhood change because many people can benefit from these developments. “The challenge,” Ong said, “is ensuring that progress is fair and just.”

The UCLA team, funded in part by the California Air Resources Board, created a database for the Los Angeles County region that included information on demographics, socio-economic and housing characteristics in neighborhoods that are near transit projects and those that are not.

Key findings by UCLA researchers for L.A. County include:

  • Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification.
  • Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households.
  • The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods.

Users of the mapping tool can examine neighborhood-level data on racial/ethnic composition, which areas have seen upscaling, gentrification, population density, percentage of people living in poverty, median household income and level of education. More specific data is also available, including the number of households with a Section 8 housing voucher and low-income housing tax credits.

“Our goal is that local and state governments will use the information to guide decisions regarding public investments that are just; community groups will use the information to help tell their stories of preserving the best parts of their neighborhood; and engaged citizens will become more aware of critical issues facing society,” Ong said.

As part of the study, the Bay Area team analyzed nine case studies and the UCLA team looked at six more in L.A. County to capture geographic diversity and to examine different stages of the gentrification and displacement process.

“Also, we want to focus in more detail on the phenomenon of commercial gentrification, which leads to the closing down of mom-and-pop stores and ethnic small businesses in some neighborhoods,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, principal investigator on the Los Angeles team. Most of the existing studies focus only on residential gentrification said Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean of the Luskin School.

For example, the UCLA team looked at studies based on the “live experiences of real communities” such as six disadvantaged neighborhoods located near Los Angeles Metro Rail stations. The also examined the impacts on Asian-American businesses near transit-oriented developments, as well as the impact of new outlets such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks on ethnic small businesses in L.A.’s Chinatown.

Loukaitou-Sideris said the researchers discovered one important difference between the strategies used by Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“We found that Bay Area municipalities have in their books many more anti-displacement policies than municipalities in L.A. County,” she said. “However, we do not know yet how effective these policies have been in limiting displacement.”

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles Luskin researchers among co-authors in new study revealing nuanced story of race and wealth in L.A.

By Melany De La Cruz-Viesca and Erin Fogg

A new report examining wealth inequality across racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles shows substantial disparity with Japanese, Asian Indians, Chinese and whites ranking among the top, while blacks, Mexicans, other Latinos, Koreans and Vietnamese rank far behind.

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles” is the first report to compile detailed data on assets and debts among people of different races, ethnicities and countries of origin residing in the Los Angeles area. Researchers from UCLA, Duke University and The New School, with support from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, analyzed data on assets and debts. Assets included savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles, while debts, included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt.

Three of the co-authors of the report have ties to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, the lead author of the report, is a 2002 graduate of the Luskin School’s Department of Urban Planning, and is assistant director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA. Other co-authors include Paul Ong, professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Asian American studies; and Zhenxiang Chen, a Public Policy graduate student. Also contributing were C. Aujean Lee, a doctoral student in Urban Planning, and Chhandara Pech, a MURP alum and currently a staff member at UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.

“Data that truly reflect the diverse and emerging patterns of wealth inequality across specific ethnic and racial groups has been hard to come by,” said William “Sandy” Darity, co-author and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke. “The patterns we were able to document may well be the first in-depth study of wealth, ethnicity and race in Los Angeles, especially for Mexicans and particular Asian national origin groups.”

Although much of the inequality discourse has focused on income, wealth is a better indicator of economic well-being and metric for understanding economic inequality. The accumulation of wealth is more likely to ensure financial security and opportunity for American families in the future, the authors said.

The report provides estimates for U.S.-born blacks, blacks who are recent immigrants from Africa, Mexicans, other Latinos, Asian Indians, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and non-Hispanic whites in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area (Los Angeles and Orange counties) using new data from the National Asset Scorecard and Communities of Color survey.

Racial and ethnic differences in wealth show the extreme vulnerability of some nonwhite households in Los Angeles. The authors estimate that the typical U.S.-born black or Mexican family, for example, has just 1 percent of the wealth of a typical white family in Los Angeles — or one cent for every dollar of wealth held by the average white family in the metro area. Koreans hold 7 cents and Vietnamese possess 17 cents for every dollar of wealth owned by comparable white families.

The median value of liquid assets — those assets that quickly can be converted to cash — for Mexicans and other Latinos is striking, zero dollars and only $7, respectively, while the median value of liquid assets for white households is $110,000. This not only implies financial hardship in the long term, but it also makes families particularly vulnerable to short-term financial disruption, the report states.

White households in Los Angeles have an estimated median net worth of $355,000. By comparison, Mexicans and U.S.-born blacks are estimated to have a median net worth of $3,500 and $4,000, respectively.

Additionally, among nonwhite groups, Japanese ($592,000), Asian Indian ($460,000), Chinese ($408,200) and Filipino ($243,000) households had estimated median wealth values far in excess of blacks who recently emigrated from Africa ($72,000), other Latinos ($42,500), Koreans ($23,400) and Vietnamese ($61,500).

“The socioeconomic status of immigrants prior to entering the U.S. plays an important role in influencing the wealth position of particular groups,” said De La Cruz-Viesca. “This report not only reveals a nuanced story of racial wealth differences in L.A., perhaps more importantly, it also explores the local nature of asset markets and what factors influence the wealth status of communities of color.”

The majority of immigrants who came to the United States after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act are highly educated, possess higher levels of wealth than the average American, and are highly skilled professionals who are more likely to hold jobs that pay more. One exception is Vietnamese immigrants, many of whom came to the United States as refugees generally with limited financial resources. The National Asset Scorecard and Communities of Color survey findings are consistent with this general pattern.

The NASCC survey findings reveal staggering disparities that should serve to urge lawmakers to identify and pursue policies that can help narrow racial wealth differences, the authors said. In particular, there’s a need to develop policies that address structural discrimination in asset and credit markets and the inherited inequalities associated with vast differences in parental wealth.

“The wealth disparities uncovered in this report are enormous, likewise it will take bold initiatives to address them,” said co-author Darrick Hamilton, associate professor of economics and urban policy and director of the Ph.D. program in policy at The New School. “‘Baby Bonds’ provide an example of a bold policy proposal that addresses the racial wealth gap, which locks in inequality at birth.”

Hamilton said that these government-provided trusts would take into account a person’s family wealth at birth. “The accounts would be used to seed a down payment on an asset like a home or a new business, so that everyone would have an opportunity to attain the economic security and wealth building mechanism of an asset that will appreciate over their lifetime.”

Study: Asian American Electorate Expected to Double by 2040 New data collected by the Center for the Study of Inequality predicts an increase in Asian American political power in the next 25 years

By 2040, there will be over 6 million more registered Asian American voters in the U.S. than there are today, an increase of more than 100 percent and proof that Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing electorates.

That finding is just one of the results of a new report coauthored by Paul Ong, a professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at UCLA Luskin with a joint appointment in Asian American Studies. The study explores the implications this growing segment of the population has for the U.S. electorate and upcoming political races through detailed demographic estimations.

According to the report, which augmented information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian American electorate will double to 12.2 million in 2040, a 107 percent increase. Due to their growing numbers, the Asian American population will have the potential to play a key role in tight presidential elections and close political decisions. The report is the first in a series of publications throughout the year that are expected to cover a broad range of topics including culture and multigenerationalism.

The report was prepared in partnership with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), a national organization committed to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office. The report was coauthored by Elena Ong, a consultant to APAICS.

“These results provide a context for understanding the relative size and potential impact of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), as well as the current and future roles of (the population’s) leaders in serving two of the fastest growing racial populations in America,” Paul Ong said.

“This study shows that Asian Americans will have a growing presence and stronger voice in our national debates for years to come,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (HI), the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. “I look forward to continuing to work to grow the pipeline of Asian American leaders who will amplify the voice of our community and continue the fight to overcome the challenges we face.”

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27.), the Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, commented, “As AAPIs become more engaged in the political process, it is important now, more than ever, that our government both represents and responds to the needs of our diverse communities.”

In the report, the term Asian American is defined in diverse terms ranging from solely Asian to multiracial Asian Americans with mixed backgrounds in terms of culture, ethnicity, nativity and other factors. According to the report, multiracial Asians will have a larger growth rate of 130 percent versus Asians alone, who are expected to grow by 75 percent.

“Electoral candidates will need to understand that the Asian American vote is not a monolith,” the report says. “They will need to understand the political concerns and priorities of Asian Americans are both unique and complex, shaped in part by age, nativity, multiracial and other evolving demographic composition.”

Changes within the Asian American population could also have an impact on the electorate beyond the 2016 presidential election cycle. For instance, while the younger, U.S.-born Asian American population aged 18 to 34 currently constitutes the majority of Asian American voters, the report estimates that by 2040, 57 percent of registered Asian American voters will be over the age of 34.

“(Knowing this information) would help elected officials reach out to Asian American voters in a language, and in a communication preference, that is in tune with the Asian American voter’s immigration status and age-cohort,” Ong said.

According to the report, the difference in race and age may suggest that the growing population will have different needs, including more emphasis on foreign policy, international relations, trade and immigration to accommodate for the concerns of foreign-born Asian American adults.

In 2015, 44 percent of naturalized Asian American registered voters are over the age of 55, but by 2040, 53 percent will be, according to the study. As a result, the youth and middle-aged share of the political landscape will decline. Older, naturalized Asian American voters are likely to demand different needs, such as native-language registration forms, town halls, e-booklets and ballots in order to vote.

Conversely, authors suggest that populations under 34 are likely to share U.S. values and advocate for issues such as equality, health care affordability and college affordability, among others.

“Given the enormous diversity by age and nativity, along with ethnicity and nationality and socioeconomic class, there is a daunting challenge of creating a common political agenda that unites Asian Americans into an effective and cohesive voting bloc,” the report said.

Though the report focuses on political implications, the impacts of the demographic shifts can be extrapolated into other areas of governance. Among other things, these projections are important for understanding the social, cultural and economic dimensions affecting the development of public policies such as new educational programs, English as a Second Language programs, and occupational and social programs for Asian American citizens of all ages.

The report, titled “The Future of Asian America in 2040,” is available via the Center for the Study of Inequality, a research center headed up by Paul Ong and housed at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and APAICS. Commentaries are also hosted there from elected officials and scholars exploring the dynamics of race and politics in America today.

Paul Ong

Professor Ong has done research on the labor market status of minorities and immigrants, displaced high-tech workers, work and spatial/transportation mismatch, and environmental justice. He is currently engaged in several projects, including an analysis of the relationship between sustainability and equity, the racial wealth gap, and the role of urban structures on the reproduction of inequality.

Previous research projects have included studies of the impact of defense cuts on California’s once-dominant aerospace industry, the impact of immigration on the employment status of young African Americans, and the influence of car ownership and subsidized housing on welfare usage.

Dr. Ong is the Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and editor of AAPI Nexus, and has served as an advisor to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and to the California Department of Social Services and the state Department of Employment Development, as well as the Wellness Foundation and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

He received a master’s in urban planning from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. in Economics, University of California, Berkeley. Along with his quantitative research, his professional practice includes teaching and applying visual forms of communication.

SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

Set-Aside Contracting in S.B.A.’s 8(A) Program
Paul Ong, Review of Black Political Economy Vol 28, No. 3, Winter 2001, pp. 59-71.

Car Ownership and Welfare-to-Work
Paul M. Ong, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 21, No. 2, Spring 2002, pp. 255-268.

Impacts of Affirmative Action: Policies and Consequences in California
Paul Ong, editor,  Alta Mira Press, 1999.

The State of Asian Pacific America: Transforming Race Relations
Paul M. Ong, editor, Asian Pacific American Public Policy Institute, LEAP and UCLA AASC, Los Angeles, CA, 2000.

The New Asian Immigration in Los Angeles and Global Restructuring
Paul Ong, Edna Bonacich, and Lucie Cheng, editors, Temple University Press, 1994.

L.A. Charitable Giving Still Lagging Behind Pre-Recession Levels The Center for Civil Society's new study, co-authored by Paul Ong, shows slow recovery in L.A. County's nonprofit sector

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Charitable giving in Los Angeles County has yet to return to pre-recession levels, according to a report released today by the Center for Civil Society at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Los Angeles County residents reported deducting $6.56 billion for charitable contributions from their federal taxes in 2012, 12.2 percent less than they reported before the start of the recession in 2006. This weak rebound in giving is consistent with the experiences of individual nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, according to the report.

The State of Donations: Individual Charitable Giving in Los Angeles (PDF) shows that overall support for Los Angeles nonprofit organizations, including individual giving, has seen incremental growth after a significant dip following the 2007 recession. This recovery, however, has been inconsistent. There is considerable volatility in major gifts and general giving patterns and the effects of the recovery are not being evenly distributed.

“Charitable giving is greatly influenced by economic expansions and contractions,” said Urban Planning professor Paul Ong, one of the authors of the survey. “Some trends are discouraging, as large swaths of the county are underperforming in terms of charitable giving. But some encouraging trends — such as improved giving among foreign-born residents — show that there could be a silver lining.”

The study shows that naturalized citizens are more likely to make contributions than the U.S.-born population, and by the 20-year mark of residence, immigrants are just as likely to give as U.S. natives.

Published with support from the Annenberg Foundation, The State of Donations is the latest annual State of the Los Angeles Nonprofit Sector Report produced by the Center. Previous reports have focused on rising demands and falling revenues of human services nonprofits over the past decade. The first State of the Sector report was published in 2002.

“There is great pressure on nonprofit organizations to raise more money through individual donations,” said Bill Parent, acting director of the Center for Civil Society. “This report helps show how many factors — the generational transfer of wealth, changing views of philanthropy, the squeeze of the middle class, growing Latino and Asian populations, and uneven economic growth across the county — are changing existing patterns of generosity.”

Among the report’s other findings:

  • Forty percent of Los Angeles residents report that they donate to charity, including donations to and through religious organizations.
  • Diversity matters, but it is complicated. Of the major racial and ethnic groups, whites and Asians in Los Angeles are more likely to give than African Americans and Latinos. There is, however, considerable variation within those groups — the more immigrants are incorporated into an area, for example, the more likely they are to give.
  • In Los Angeles County, older, more educated and wealthier populations are more likely to give.
  • Paradoxically, the highest levels of generosity — measured as the percentage of the population that donates to charity and the share of income donated — can be found in the county’s most and least wealthy neighborhoods.
  • In terms of major gifts, Los Angeles nonprofits are vying for the outsize generosity of a very small percentage of high net worth households, which are estimated to provide half of all individual giving to nonprofits.
  • Individual giving patterns reflect growing inequality. High net worth households are contributing more in actual dollars but less in terms of the percentage of their income donated to charity. In terms of major gifts over $1 million, higher education has the most recipients as well as donors.
  • Los Angeles is a key player in major giving, with more dollars flowing out of the area than are coming in.
  • Between 2006 and 2012, county residents who itemized their deductions contributed on average almost $1,500 to charitable causes, but that giving diminished significantly after 2007. Between 2006 and 2008, total tax-deductible contributions declined by $1.28 billion for the county as a whole, which translates to a decline of roughly $350 per tax filer.

“It is our hope that greater awareness of these trends might encourage more giving as well as more thoughtful giving across Los Angeles,” Parent said.

Highlights from The State of Donation: Individual Charitable Giving in Los Angeles will be presented during an October 28 event at the Center for Civil Society’s annual conference on the state of the Los Angeles nonprofit sector at the Skirball Center.

The entire report is available here.

 

Paul Ong’s Research Reveals Los Angeles’ Rent Burden Crisis

Paul Ong

Urban Planning professor Paul Ong’s latest research on the L.A. housing market has been highlighted in the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate’s monthly analyses of crucial real estate and economic issues.

The article, which is a condensed review of Ong’s paper titled “Impacts of the Widening Divide: Los Angeles at the Forefront of the Rent Burden Crisis,” delivers troubling news about the L.A. rental market – that it is the most unaffordable in the country and is the metro area with the largest share of renters vs. homeowners.

Ong writes:

“This affordability crisis has deep roots. Los Angeles has been a majority renter city since 1970. And the disparity between renters and owners reflects an economic divide that has widened over decades.

Our studies show severe housing burden among poor renters has existed since 1970, and that during periods of increasing inequality the burden has grown even more severe. Vacancy rates have risen only slightly – even dipping at times when housing burden has increased. And renters are paying more for the same quality housing, suggesting that neither market forces nor changing housing quality fully explain the increasing rents.

Altogether, the data show that the solution to this long-term crisis is to address its root causes – low incomes and high rents – by increasing both renter earnings and affordable housing.”

You can read the full article here.

Ong and his co-authors Silvia Jimenez and Rosalie Ray also contributed an op-ed piece that was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal (subscription required).