About The Race Contours Project

Project Investigators:

Dowell Myers, Philip Ethington, Angela James, and William Frey.

Project Participants

Source of Funding:

The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, based in Los Angeles, provided a generous grant for a project titled “New Contours of Racial Diversity in Los Angeles: Lessons from the New Multi-Racial Tabulations of the 2000 Census” (see Project Summary below).  This funding is supplemented by resources of the Population Dynamics Core of the USC Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center, under funding from the National Cancer Institute. The latter support enabled broadening the research base to cover national and California geographies upon first release of the census 2000 data pertaining to race and Hispanic origin.

Project Summary:

The changing nature of race and ethnicity in Los Angeles County will be among the most dramatic and important findings to be reported from the 2000 census. This census will be the first to report data on individuals who claim multiple racial heritages, thus drawing attention to the most personal frontier of racial integration. At the same time, the ascendancy of Latinos to the largest size group will reverse longstanding assumptions about the majority population.  Also of great social and political consequence is whether this growing, diverse mixture of population groups is more spatially intermingled or more segregated than before. Ultimately, how should we view these recent changes within the longer sweep of racial change in Los Angeles?

The proposed project seeks answers to these questions and others. The first objective is to address the technical challenge posed by the new multiracial data of developing alternative schemes for tabulating race and ethnic data. These alternatives will be demonstrated prior to release of the first data in April 2001 so that journalists and policy makers will have early guidance about the choices to be made. Part of this objective is to define a “bridging method” for making race and Hispanic data from the 2000 census comparable to that from 1990 and earlier. Multiracial individuals must be allocated to the monoracial categories employed in prior censuses if comparison is to be achieved.

The second objective is calculation of segregation patterns and their changes from 1990 and before, making use of the bridging methods for defining comparable race and Hispanic groups in successive censuses. Our key questions concern how exposure and segregation has trended from 1990 to 2000, extending Ethington’s prior historical time series produced with support of the Haynes Foundation.

The third objective is to focus on the spatial distribution patterns of multiracial individuals recorded in the 2000 census. Which multiracial combinations are most prevalent in Los Angeles? Also, do multiracial persons of certain combined heritages reside in locations where many members of the individual heritage groups are found?

The final objective is to synthesize the changing meaning of race and Hispanic origin in Los Angeles.  The new contours of racial diversity can be summarized at multiple levels—growing diversity at the regional scale, changing interracial exposure at the neighborhood level, and growing multiracial identity at the personal level.  In combination, these different levels of diversity provide a unique portrait of Los Angeles.

Population Dynamics Group

This project is conducted through the Population Dynamics Group at the University of Southern California.  Consisting of a set of allied projects and collaborating faculty, the main offices of the Population Dynamics Group are located in Lewis Hall of the School of Policy, Planning, and Development. Core funding for the group is provided through the USC Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center under a grant from the National Cancer Institute.  Additional funding is accrued through individual projects on focused research topics.

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School of Policy, Planning, and Development
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California 90089-0626
Attn: Prof. Dowell Myers

Updated on March. 31, 2001

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