Immigration to Southern California peaked in 1990, and we’ve now entered a post-immigrant phase, with foreign-born residents likely to be more financially and culturally stable and better connected than they were a generation ago.

A young and diverse audience, many of whom arrived by public transportation, packed the ballroom at the Line Hotel in Koreatown for the second event of The Third Los Angeles Project.

The audience and the location reflected the insightful and perceptive nature of the discussion on Post-Immigrant Los Angeles.  A large show of hands in the audience reflected current statistics that five percent of kids under 18 are immigrants but 60 percent have at least one parent who is an immigrant.  The show of hands grew still larger when asked who had a grandparent who is an immigrant.  The panelists pointed out that L.A. has been ahead of the California and national curve in many demographic changes, no longer a city of immigrants but a city of natives – second generation.

Christopher Hawthorne explained Post-Immigrant Los Angeles and how immigration peaked in 1990, leaving us now in a post-immigrant phase where Los Angeles continues to be ahead of the curve nationally in many demographic changes.  Ours is no longer a city of immigrants, but a city of second-generation natives that last year was the only city among the country’s 100 largest metro areas that didn’t have an increase in Hispanic youth population.

The discussion kicked off with an initial question as to how the panelists themselves came to Los Angeles, the changes they see, the challenges and opportunities.  With families hailing from diverse parts of the world and country, the newcomer on the panel, Kelema Moses, who describes herself as a “Black Women from Hawaii living in Koreatown” only in LA six months, provided a unique perspective.

Joining Hawthorne were Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American studies & ethnicity at USC; Christopher Pak, architect and chief cxecutive of Archeon International Group; Jan Lin, professor of sociology at Occidental College; and Moses, instructor of art history & visual arts at Occidental whose research focuses on identity and race within urban environments.

Peppered with references to “ethno-burbs,” gentrification, growing inequality gap and ethnic theme parks, the audience and panelists were just getting started on a discussion that clearly will continue to live outside of this series. 

Photo credit: Susanica Tam