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Suburbanization and Asian-White Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas Research Paper


Introduction

The most significant twentieth-century trend is that suburbs became the dominant life style for Americans (Teaford, 2008). Whites experienced overwhelming suburbanization. In 1920, Whites and Blacks lived in suburbs almost equally: about one-third of each group’s residents. However, there was a dramatic increase in suburbanization after WWII.

By that time, the Whites suburbanization rate grew by nearly 70%, from a 1940 level of about 38% to a 1970 level of about 63% (U.S. Bureau of Census 1963). The change to suburban dominance in population is reflected in comprehensive statistics on economic activity (Gottdiener and Hutchison, 2011). In many cases, suburbs have outpaced their core central cities in economic importance since 1970.

According to the Bureau of Census, 46 percent of the 1990 population lived in suburbia, 40 percent in central cities, and 14 percent in rural areas. This study will examine the association between the level of Asian suburbanization and the segregation between Whites and Asians in 260 metropolitan areas (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1963).

Recently, Asians are the fastest growing minority group. According to the Bureau of Census, Asian population grew from 3.5 million in 1980 to 7.3 million in 1990 and to 8.8 million in 1995 (Palen, 1995). Currently, the Asian population consists of around 4% of the entire population (Bureau of Census).

There always has been debate as to whether higher level of minorities’ suburbanization yields lower segregation or higher segregation. Segregation is the distribution of racial and ethnic groups into separate and distinct residential areas of the city (Logan, 2011). The general trends in residential dissimilarity across 260 metropolitan areas from whites have declined since 1970.

Even though Blacks have experienced the most declines in residential segregation, they remain the most segregated in cities. The largest black population averages remains high. While the Asians remain the least segregated compared to other ethnical groups, the average level of Asian-Whites segregation has not changed much. So the question is why do we care about segregation and why does segregation matter?

According to previous social scientists, there are some serious social costs related to residential segregation. This compares to the researches on examining Black-White segregation or Hispanic-white segregation. However, there are not many studies only focusing on Asian-White segregation. Accordingly, a variety of factors affect segregation of Asians but this paper will only focus on the role of suburbanization.

By using the data collected from the 260 major metropolitan areas across United States in 2009, the researcher will test the hypothesis that the level of suburbanization leads to the decline of Asian-White segregation based on spatial assimilation model.

Theoretical Arguments

The purpose of this research is to investigate the association between the level of Asian suburbanization and the segregation between whites and Asians in metropolitan areas. The hypothesis of this research is based on the spatial assimilation model that physical mobility implies one’s upward social mobility. In other words, once Asians social status moving up, then they can get living closer with whites.

Therefore, Asians will have less social, economic, and cultural gaps with whites, which finally lead to the decreasing of Asian-Whites segregation. The researcher will put this hypothesis to the test. Additionally, the reputation of Asians towards Whites plays an important role concerning the point of Asian suburbanization increasing the Asian-Whites integration.

To restate my hypothesis: the concentration of Asians in the suburbs of the metropolitan area will help to alleviate the Asian-white segregation in the metropolitan area. My theoretical argument is to explain why suburbanization might lead to contact that is more residential with whites.

Moreover, the average incomes of Asians are the highest among other minority groups. According to the contact hypothesis, four conditions are especially important. That is urbanization, poverty levels, geographic location, and governments.

Some scholars who adapted the stratification perspective state that there is relatively weak correlation exist between the continuously Asian suburbanization and the level of Asian-white segregation in the unit of metropolitan area.

According to Logan and Stults’s (2011) report of the New Findings from the 2010 Census, they found that Asians are considerably less segregated than African Americans, and their segregation levels have remained steady since 1980. In addition, with the growth in Asian population, unique ethnic conglomerations tend to coagulate. Because of this, the groups live more sparsely now than in 2000, a trend that has grown since 1980.

Despite Asian isolation, another important factor is the stereotypes of Asians. Maria Krysan (2002) conducted an open-ended question survey in Los Angeles, and asked whites about their comfort with different levels of integration with Asians and then asked to explain.

Krysan (2002) found the major problem with Asians is based the stereotypes: the modal response was that Asians are not friendly, stick to themselves, or are uninterested in integration.

The problems with Asian neighborhoods, according to these whites, are “cultural differences” – particularly expressed as language concerns (Krysan, 2002). Thirdly, the rapid development of suburban Chinatown plays an important role in the controversial issue of continuing Asian-White segregation even in the suburbs.

Another study can be looked at is Monterey Park, a suburb outside Los Angeles that became a focal point for new Chinese immigration. In 1960, the population was 85 percent white in contrast to the population in 2000 was 43 percent Asian, 35.5 percent Hispanic, and only 21.6 percent Whites. For a time, the city was known as the “Chinese Beverly Hills”, and it was later referred to as the first suburban Chinatown.

Lastly, other sociologists have suspected that the presence of Asian neighbors provides a protection against white flight, or in the terminology of Farley and Frey (1994), a “buffer.” Buffering is shorthand for the argument that the movement of “more fully assimilated second and third generations of Asians to higher-status, more integrated communities” provides “a push that should lead to greater integration of blacks.

On the other hand, the spatial assimilation model has remained largely controversial issue in the previous studies, which are related to the possibility that Asians might remain segregated from whites even in the suburbs, from four aspects: Asian isolation, the emerging suburb Chinatown, Asian stereotypes, white flight, and multiethnic buffers.

According to Logan and Stults’s report of the 2010 Censes new findings, the rapidly growing Asian populations are as segregated today as they were thirty years ago, and their growth is creating more intense ethnic enclaves in many parts of the country (2011).

This paper will focus on the gateway city (this is the city that facilitates entry into the main city), because most of the new Asian immigrants live in suburban towns within the metropolitan region, not in the central city.

In addition, our focus on the special assimilation perspective will help us to understand the importance of moving beyond the city and looking at the metropolitan region more broadly when we study immigration and other demographic trends that affect our communities. (Gottdiener and Hutchison, 2011).

Hence, while this paper looks into this aspect, it will also delve into the effect of suburbanization on segregation of minority groups with special regard to Asians.

Literature Review

Large bodies of past researches show the focal relationship between the concentration of Asians in the suburbs of the metropolitan area and the level of Asian-white segregation in the metropolitan area.

According to article “Trends in the Suburbanization of Racial/Ethnic Groups in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1970 to 2000 (2011:239)”, the authors found that nearly all the variance in 1970 to 2000 growth in White suburbanization (86 percent) is explained by changes in the supply of suburban housing. However, the percentage of variance explained is much lower for the other minority groups.

This suggests that the overwhelming cause of changes in White suburbanization over the past three decades was increases in the supply of suburban housing. Another study indicates that Whites have suburbanized faster and more completely than other groups.

Hwang and Murdock (1998) concluded that the suburbs possessing seven image indicators: suburb’s smaller population size; lower density; younger housing stock; lower percentage of minority residents; suburb’s old age; higher percentage of traditional family homes and higher percentage of owner-occupied homes did draw more white movers.

Massey and Denton’s (1987) cross-sectional analysis of segregation in 1980, reported that in metropolitan areas in which Hispanics or Asians had higher incomes and were more likely to speak English or to be U.S. born, these groups were significantly like to live in suburbs and thereby to experience lower levels of segregation.

Moreover, according to Logan et al.’s (2004) finding, they firstly concluded that among Asians, an increasing share of foreign-born persons were associated with greater decreases in segregation. Secondly, if Asian economic standing improves, it will have a great potential to further residential assimilation with whites.

Therefore, according to the assimilation model, scholars suggest that discrimination does not fundamentally drive the segregation between Asians and Whites, but the social status and culture differences seems more likely driving the segregation between Asians and Whites.

Based on the 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) Logan (2011) found White incomes averaged over $60,000, which is about $25,000 more than blacks and $20,000 more than Hispanics. However, Asian incomes averaged just over $70,000. Thus, if we use the spatial assimilation model, which the economic status increases, it will finally lead to residential assimilation with whites.

Obviously, the dramatic increasing suburbanization rates of Whites, Asian prestige (based on statistics) and theoretical expectation based spatial assimilation will create the connection between the two testing variables that the increasing rates of suburbanization will finally lead to the decreasing level of Asian-Whites segregation.

Compared to other minority groups, Asians are the least segregated group with whites. Just like Krysan (2002) found, it seems more likely the biggest problem of segregation between Asians and Whites is not about discrimination, but cultural differences

. Thus, I assume that Whites hold positive attitudes toward Asian’s reputation, and this finally leads back to the model of assimilation – once we fill the culture gap, this will eventually leads to Asian-Whites integration.

The perspective of reputation of a minority group is critical. As long as the reputation stays stable, then if the social status increases and the cultural differences decreases, finally the spatial distance will relatively decreases. In addition, the spatial assimilation model denotes this meaning too.

Data and Method

In this section, the researcher fast forwards to 2009 using the most recent population census data in 2010. This study tests the relationship between the level of suburbanization in the metropolitan area and the level of Asian-White segregation across 276 metropolitan areas in 2009. In analyzing this focal relationship, I am testing the hypothesis that the higher suburban concentration the lower Asian-White segregation.

In other words, there is a negative relationship between suburbanization and Asian-white segregation. The total number sample of metropolitan areas is 276.

First, in order to generate a new variable that indicates the percentage of the population living in the suburbs in each of the metropolitan areas, I used the variable of suburban population in 2009 divided by the total population in 2009, then converted into percentage measurement. However, in order to keep the consistency in the sources of data, the number of metropolitan areas changed from 276 to 260.

My analysis only includes one measure of a metropolitan-area characteristic, which is the percentage of suburbanization rate in 2009. In terms of the dependent variable, I use an “Index of Dissimilarity” to measure the level of Asian-White segregation; it indicates how evenly the members of Asians and Whites are distributed among the 260 metropolitan areas across the nation.

The “Index of Dissimilarity” refers to the percentage of Asians who would have to move in for all neighborhoods to reflect a certain percentage of Asian composition of the entire city (say 46.31 percent). There are five dimensions define geographic traits that social scientists think of when they consider segregation (Gottdiener and Hutchison 2011:213). They are Unevenness, Isolation, Clustered, Concentrated, and Centralized.

The percentage of a metropolitan-area population residing in the suburban ring of the metropolitan area is taken from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s State of the Cities Data System (2009). The researcher will use correlation analysis to test whether there is a negative association between the level of suburbanization and the level of Asian-white segregation in the metropolitan areas in 2009.

The bivariate regression utilizes the relationship between the independent and dependent variables to predict the score of the dependent variable from the independent variable. In other words, after testing the hypothesis by using bivariate regression model, we will be able to predict the level of Asian-white segregation from the level of suburbanization.

However, in this study, we are more focusing on the association or relationship between these two variables than prediction.

The most common is a Pearson correlation coefficient (r), which is the correlation between two interval variables, and it ranges from -1.00 to +1.00. If -0.3<r<0.3, then we consider it as weak relationship; if -0.7<4<-0.3 or 0.3<r<0.7, then it is considered as moderate relationship; if -1.00<r<-0.7 or 0.7<r<1.0, then we interpret it as strong relationship.

Results

Results from model predicting the level of suburbanization has very weak positive association on Asian-White segregation in 2009 in 260 metropolitan areas across the United States. This is completely opposite to the hypothesis. The correlation coefficient arrived at from the regression model is 0.0121. This indicates a weak but positive relationship between the variables.

Therefore, the level of suburbanization almost has no effect on the level of Asian-white segregation in 2009 across 260 metropolitan areas (n=260). Obviously, the result does not support my hypothesis that there is a negative association between the level of suburbanization and the level of Asian-white segregation. This shows that other factors are also at play in affecting the segregation of Asians.

This may include poverty levels, demographic shapes, levels of immigration, social status, and state and federal policies. While suburbanization plays a role in segregation, the factors appear more pronounced as they form a larger chunk of the explanatory model (Timberlake et al. 2011).

Level of suburbanization in 2009

Moreover, the bar graph interprets the level of Asian-white segregation are all under 50, which means modest segregation. An interesting finding in the bar graph shows that the modest level of suburbanization actually has higher Asian-whites segregation than the lowest and highest level of suburbanization. The result implies that segregation tends to categorize things into certain groups that look alike.

This actually supports my counter theoretical argument that Asians might remain segregated from whites even in the suburbs. For example, while Chinese are of Asian descent, suburban Chinatowns seem to be resided by Chinese only. This is despite the fact that there may be black population residing alone and whites alone in the same locality.

Discussion

The United States has traditionally been referred to as a “melting pot”. Her history began with waves of immigrants; bring their own cultures, traditions and all hoping to find freedom, new opportunities, and a better way of life.

The racial segregation has a long history in the United States: from the Black Codes to Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese American internment to Jim Crow Laws to Redlining to Separate but Equal to White flight. As we can see, the state of segregation has been changed from legally enforced separation to more voluntary or involuntary separation.

The result shows that the increasing suburbanization does not have big effects on Asian-white segregation. However, it has a slight influence on bringing up the segregation of Asian and Whites. Therefore, the question as to whether suburbanization created more opportunities for living the “American Dream,” lingers.

On the other hand, it is prudent to ask whether suburbanization led to the homogenization of American culture, which produces more segregation and isolation. As I already argued at the beginning, too many unmeasured variables affect segregation of Asians. For this study particularly, I only focus on the role of suburbanization (Lu, 2001).

The results explain my hypothesis that suburbanization might not be the only factor that cause the Asian segregation. Therefore, in spite of suburbanization, what are the other factors affect segregation of Asians? According to Park and Iceland’s (2011) findings of residential segregation from 1990 to 2000, Asian segregation levels are consistently lower in new destinations.

Moreover, the native-born are less segregated than the foreign born, which is consistent with immigrant spatial incorporation. Finally, socioeconomic indicators are generally consistent with predictions of spatial assimilation. This study posits several academic and procedural limitations. First, lack of independent variables causes spuriousness. Secondly, there lacks available data to support Asian segregation.

Thirdly, this study only observes one year (2009), which is too short for studying segregation. Usually, sociologists often study segregation for at least a decade or even longer periods, so they can gather more data and come up better patterns. Data availability has the capacity to bring studies that are more empirical. Additionally, it is possible to relate to different periods to study patterns.

References

Gottdiener, M. & Hutchison, R. (2011). The New Urban Sociology. Boudler, CO: Westview Press.

Hwang, S. & Murdock, S. (1998). Toward an Integrated Ecological- Sociological Theory of Suburbanization. Web.

Krysan, M. (2002). Whites Who Say they would flee: Who are they, and why would they leave. Demography, 39(4): 675-696.

Logan, J. & Stults, B. (2011). . Web.

Logan, J. (2011). . Web.

Logan, J. et al (2004). Segregation of Minorities in the Metropolis: Two Decades of Change. Demography 41(1): 1-22.

Lu, S. (2001). Intergroup Contact and the Assimilation of the Chinese Entrepreneurs in Small Southern Towns: A New Approach to the Intergroup Contact Hypothesis. Web.

Massey, D.S. & N.A. Denton, N.A. (1987). Trends in the Residential Segregation of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians: 1970-1980. American Sociological Review 52(1): 802-25.

Palen, J. (1995). The Suburban Revolution: an Introduction. Sociological Focus, 28(4): 347-351.

Park, J. & Iceland, J. (2011). Residential Segregation in Metropolitan Established Immigrant Gateways and New Destinations, 1990-2000. Social Science Research, 40(3):811-821.

Teaford, J. C. (2008). The American suburb: The basics. New York: Routledge.

Timberlake, J. et al. (2011). Trends in the Suburbanization of Racial/Ethnic Groups in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1970 to 2000. Urban Affairs Review, 47(2): 218-255.

U.S. Bureau of Census. (1963). Eighteenth census of the United States: 1960, vol. III pt. 1D: Selected area reports, standard metropolitan statistical areas. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Suburbanization and Asian-White Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas." October 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/suburbanization-and-asian-white-segregation-in-u-s-metropolitan-areas/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Suburbanization and Asian-White Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas'. 1 October.

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