Southern California cities are now significantly more multiracial than they were 20 years ago, according to a new USC analysis released Thursday. The percentage of multiracial cities in the five-county area climbed from 51.2 percent to 61.5 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to the report by USC’s Population Dynamics Research Group.
“Los Angeles is leading the nation once again in this multiracial experience,” said lead author Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography with the USC Price School of Public Policy.
“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 (pages 4-5 of the report contain detailed definitions).
Both Orange and Riverside counties have steadily become 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 cities with significant populations of all four racial groups. Those cities are Highland, Loma Linda and Rancho Cucamonga.
• 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 the 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 advisor to the Bureau of the Census and authored the most widely referenced work on census analysis, Analysis with Local Census Data: Portraits of Change (Academic Press, 1992). 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 collaborators on the report were USC graduate students Linda Lou, Hyojung Lee and Anthony Guardado.