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Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Los Angeles Local Politics

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The demographic changes that have taken place over the past twenty years in Los Angeles have been extraordinary in scope and diversity. The area of Los Angeles has seen a literal boom in population growth from 7 million in 1970 to 8.8 million in 1990 (US Census Bureau). However, the dramatic change in population ethnic and racial diversity has attracted the attention of most observers. However, in terms of racial diversity, Los Angeles has taken on a new form, moving from a biracial setting to a multiethnic setting. The non-Hispanic white population fell from its 71% share in 1970 to a narrow numerical plurality of 41% of the county population in 1990.

Meanwhile, the population of Latino and Asian Pacific witnessed a doubling—from 15% to 39%—and nearly quadrupling—from 3% to 11%, respectively, of their population shares. In contrast, African Americans were a constant proportion of the county population (11%) during this period, while slightly increasing numerically.

When it comes to education, the lack of education, is almost directly related to economic disadvantages. In my opinion, issues such as the reform of public education would be in the best interest of all of the respective groups. But, just like the issue of jobs, separate interests permeate the educational arena, reflecting both cultural and structural issues. Nascent cultural conflicts exist over the issue of bilingualism in the schools. Whites, Blacks, and other native-born English speakers express a certain degree of concern over the importance of bilingual education for non-English speakers – the recent thrust of the English-only amendments is but one example (Horton, 578).

California’s immigrants have both high and low levels of education. For example, “In 2016, 34% of California’s immigrants age 25 and older had not completed high school, compared with 8% of US-born California residents. Twenty-eight percent of California’s foreign-born residents had attained at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36% of US-born residents. Foreign-born residents accounted for 72% of state residents without a high school diploma and 31% of college-educated residents. But recent immigrants and immigrants from Asia tend to have very high levels of educational attainment. About half (49%) of foreign-born residents who came to the state between 2012 and 2016—and 56% of those who came from Asia—have at least a bachelor’s degree”.

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As we all know Los Angeles is one of the largest cities in the US, Los Angeles is home to a strong biracial coalition which is the same twenty-year alliance that sustained Tom Bradley's mayoralty. Principally built by African Americans and liberal Jews, the Bradley coalition grew to encompass business and labor, Latinos and Asian Americans. Believe it or not, Los Angles itself has shifted dramatically in terms of society in recent years. In the wake of the devastating violence that took place in 1992, the Bradley coalition, fell from power with the election of a conservative Republican as mayor in 1993. The Black and White populations in the city were deeply challenged by a huge spike in other groups, specifically Latino and Asian Americans. Thus, Los Angeles has switched from the model of biracial politics to the more problematic core of multiethnic political theorizing, severe social conflict, and the rollback of minority gains. The more pressing issue at hand is the uncertainty of direction and vision on what basis should coalitions be built upon color, race, or some other usual factor?

Progressive politics has two directions. The two prominent paths for progressive politics are rainbow and biracial coalitions. The 'rainbow' theory says, coalitions can most effectively be formed amongst people of color, with the participation of a small fraction of progressive Whites. The alliance will be held together by a common alienation from a predominantly White dominated society, along with a progressive ideology and common economic interests. However, the rainbow model contrasts with the biracial and interracial coalition, in which unity within minorities is supplemented by extensive links to liberal and moderate Whites. The most prominent type of White participants in such coalitions are Jewish individuals. Shared liberal theories allows members of these coalitions to temporarily build olive branches across racial lines. These coalitions have provided the basis for the rise of minority political power and influence in a wide variety of settings and for the Bradley coalition in Los Angeles (Browning, Marshall and Tabb).

As we reflect on the past, by 1993, the public's perception of life in Los Angeles had reached critical lows, moved steadily along by the fear of crime and disorder, and then exponentially by the riots in 1992. Los Angeles was a very unhappy city, not just in the inner city areas, and certainly in the suburban San Fernando Valley. White disaffection with the status quo was less visible, but given the White dominance of the voter rolls, it carried a great electoral punch. Inner minority tensions had been growing as well for a number of years; and the city became even more crowded, grittier and a hub for crime as groups contended over spaces that had previously been separate. Approximately 400,000 more people lived in Los Angeles compared to the decade before. The engine driving the population increase was immigration by Latinos and Asians. Suddenly the immigration issue was becoming explosive inevitably disrupting the entire society as a whole. All this took place in the midst of a blistering recession that not only hit Los Angeles, but all of California extremely hard. A major proportion of all jobs lost nationally were lost in California, particularly in Southern California. “South Central Los Angeles, once a predominately Black bastion, is now a contested area among Blacks, Latinos and Korean American storekeepers” (Oliver and Johnson, 449).

According to the Public policy institute of California, “California currently has more immigrants than any other state. California is home to more than 10 million immigrants—about a quarter of the foreign-born population nationwide. In 2016, the most current year of data, 27% of California’s population was foreign born, about twice the US percentage. Foreign-born residents represented more than 30% of the population in seven California counties; in descending order, these counties are Santa Clara, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Mateo, Alameda, Monterey, and Orange. Half of California children have at least one immigrant parent”.

To conclude, California’s immigration issue is widespread and has been a growing issue since 1993, as previously stated. The vast majority of California’s immigrants were born in Latin America (51%) or Asia (39%). California has sizable populations of immigrants from dozens of countries; the leading countries of origin are Mexico (4.2 million), China (936,000), the Philippines (813,000), Vietnam (534,000), and India (482,000). However, most (58%) of those arriving between 2012 and 2016 came from Asia; only 28% came from Latin America. California is known for their high immigration rates and policy decisions have reflected this fact in the past.


  1. Harrigan, John J., and David C. Nice. ‘Politics and Policy in States and Communities’. Pearson, 2013.
  2. Boyarsky, Bill. 'Competing for Jobs in the New LA', Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1992., sec. B, p.2.
  3. Browning, Rufus, P., Dale Rogers Marshall and David Tabb. ‘Protest is Not Enough: The Struggle of Blacks and Hispanics for Equality in City Politics’ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).
  4. Carmichael, Stokely, and Charles V. Hamilton. ‘Black Power’ (New York: Vintage Books, 1967).
  5. Horton, John. 'The Politics of Ethnic Change: Grass Roots Responses to Economic and Demographic Restructuring in Monterey Park, California'. Urban Geography 10:6 (1989): 578-592.
  6. LASUI (Los Angeles Survey of Inequality). Focus Group Interviews, 1992.
  7. Oliver, Melvin L., and James H. Johnson, Jr., 'Interethnic Conflict in an Urban Ghetto: The Case of Blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles'. Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change 6 (1984): 57-94; US Bureau of the Census.. op. cit.
  8. Oliver, Melvin L., and James H. Johnson, Jr. 'Interethnic Minority Conflict in Urban America: The Effects of Economic and Social Dislocations', Urban Geography 10 (1989): 449-463.
  9. Ramos, George and Tracy Wilkinson, 'Unrest Widens Rifts in Latino Population', Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1992.
  10. Sonenshein, Rafael J. ‘Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles’ (Princeton: NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).
  11. US Bureau of the Census, Census of Population and Housing (Washington, DC: US Bureau of the Census, 1970).
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Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Los Angeles Local Politics. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2023, from
“Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Los Angeles Local Politics.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022,
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