Cecilia Conrad, Professor of Economics, Pomona College

"There Goes the Neighborhood? Race in California Suburbs"

Eleven years ago Cecilia Conrad and her young son relocated to Claremont, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  Since they arrived during the summer months, it was important that she find a place for him to spend his days while she worked.  Conrad discovered that the city of Claremont sponsored summer programs for youth and other segments of the municipal population.  After comparing  U. S. Census data from the year 2000 to earlier data, she found that suburban areas were becoming more racially and ethnically diverse; she became interested in exploring whether or not such diversification affects a community’s willingness to fund public goods such as libraries, parks, recreation, police and fire departments.  

Conrad turned to a study done on a suburban community in Florida which was comprised largely of senior citizens. The study found that as the city became more ethnically and racially diverse, less money was allocated for schools, parks, recreation and the like, and more money was budgeted for police services.  Conrad found that in suburban Los Angeles the relationship between public spending and diversity was less a matter of race and more s matter of class.  When persons of color of different racial and ethnic backgrounds moved into suburban neighborhoods and with about the same income level as those already living there, spending on parks and recreation remained about the same.

Conrad also expected to find that when more affluent people moved into particular areas more money would be allocated for public goods.  Interestingly, her study discovered the opposite was true--after a certain point (viz. median household income greater than $100,000).  Amounts budgeted for public goods, such as parks, decreased when suburban communities experienced increases in income ranges. One reason for this is that persons who are better off financially are more likely to provide recreation for themselves and have little need to contribute dollars for access to public facilities.  Therefore, class, more so than race, affects changes human services spending in Los Angeles suburbs.

In the general discussion, issues having to do with religious affiliation were broached. They lead to ongoing consideration of the following issues:

How do religious groups affect the racial-ethnic diversity of a given suburb?

What ideologies and issues are generally relevant in determining whether and what types of public services are provided by local communities?

How does religious affiliation affect spending on and usage of public works? What are influences and determinants?

In what situations and respects are religious affiliations (and their symbols and operations) to be seen in terms of capital? In terms of market wins and losses?

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