From Barrio to the ‘Burbs: Immigration and Urban Sprawl in Southern California (Working Paper #32)

Enrico A. Marcelli, University of Massachusetts – Boston and Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies – UCLA

Abstract: Research on the spatial distribution of U.S. immigrants has given scant systematic attention to how regional-institutional factors (e.g., welfare availability, cultural affinity, labor market conditions, and the housing market) influence settling initially in the suburbs.  Connecting (1) 1990 PUMS, (2) 1980-90 Dun and Bradstreet, (3) 1983-90 Consolodated Federal Funds Report, and (4) 1990-98 INS data at the PUMA level for the five-country southern California region, this paper finds that (1) although the proportion of recent immigrants having settled initially in suburbs rose during the 1990s, approximately two-thirds continued to settle first in urban areas; and (2) both individual demographic characteristics and regional-institutional factors influenced immigrant residential choice.  Results challenge the emphasis placed on individual-level determinants in Massey’s (1985) original spatial assimilation model, and it is argued that employment and housing, rather than immigration or welfare, policy instruments are more likely to influence whether immigrants settle initially in the suburbs.

Working Paper #32»