The more sociologists John Logan and Richard Alba study patterns of minority and ethnic concentrations in cities and suburbs, the more they are surprised by how little has changed.
"It is really most remarkable that the extent of segregation in neighborhoods by socioeconomic or cultural groupings is much like it was decades ago," said Logan, whose current project with Alba, "Residential Patterns of Minorities in the Metropolis," has just received a two-year, $174,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The funding will extend the researchers' five-year study of ethnic and minority neighborhoods in the New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles metropolitan areas during the 1980-1990 period.
"The new grant will allow us to take a close look at the 1990 U.S. Census figures, which are just now being made available in a comprehensive way," said Logan. Along with past grants from NSF and the National Institute of Health, total support for his and Alba's study is now at $835,000.
While past analyses of segregation have largely concentrated on residential patterns of racial and ethnic groups, this project looks at specific ethnic or "minority" neighborhoods and sees how they change over time, in for instance such characteristics as social class or presence of other racial/ethnic groups. The study also inspects the responses of individuals in order to analyze what determines residency in such neighborhoods.
"We want to know what factors come into play: education, income levels, employment opportunities," said Logan. "Are immigrants moving in where they can work in a particular economic sector? The Chinese have done that by settling close to the garment sector, for instance."
Logan says that while many minority neighborhoods have integrated such groups as African, Puerto Rican and newer immigrant populations, even across some socioeconomic lines, this often owes much to restricted housing opportunities in the inner cities. A typical white neighborhood meanwhile remains very homogeneous: white; very middle class.
"And even some immigrant groups are now forming homogeneous neighborhoods in the suburbs, regardless of economic distinctions. Many Asian groups, for instance, make new lives where family resides even distant relatives.
"There are some places that are classically integrated, you might say, such as a few neighborhoods in Queens where it's 10 percent Chinese, 10 percent Korean, 10 percent Dominican, 10 percent white, 10 percent black. But there are just not that many of them."
In fact, Logan said he and Alba found something startling with one particular ethnic group, the Italians. "There are large areas in cities, such as the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, that have remained 40 or 50 percent Italian for generations. Where you would think that, with much time passing and economic fortunes varying, the families would move out to the suburbs, often they don't.
"And then you find that, even when they have, they have created some strongly Italian neighborhoods in the suburbs."
The Albany researchers' work has produced many journal articles and frequent mentions in the leading publications in the U.S., such as The New York Times, when profiles are done on ethnic and minority neighborhood patterns. Said Vice President for Research Jeanne Gullahorn, "the current award for Drs. Alba and Logan's work is an-other sustantive recog-nition by na-tional peers of the excellence of our sociology faculty."
Logan says this project has made him even more eager to explore through field work another related area: how communities organize and what their social and political components are. On another front, he wants to research modern China and its transition from socialism to a current unsettled meld of socialism and capitalism. "What are the income and inequity issues, the alternations in family structure that resulted?" Logan poses.
Meanwhile, his past studies with sociology department colleague Glenna Spitze on the elderly and their family relations has resulted in the publication of a book, Family Ties, to be released by Temple University Press in Summer 1996.
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