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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnicity and the Politics of Growth in Monterey Park, California


This paper offers one small but dramatic example of grassroots responses to urban restructuring. It is a case study of the politics of ethnicity and growth in Monterey Park, North America's first suburban Chinatown. Evolving after World War II from a predominantly white, middle class suburb into a multi-ethnic city, today Monterey Park has the highest concentration of Asians of any city in the United States.

Our research addresses two issues: (1) the development of the politics of growth and ethnicity in a multi-ethnic,middle class suburb undergoing rapid demographic and economic change as a result of the rapid influx of Asian people and capital; (2) the role and stands taken by new Asian immigrants and established residents -- Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Anglos --in the struggle for ethnic representation and local control over land use, space, language,and the very definition of community.

This paper focuses specifically on the ethnic actors and political currents surrounding the City Council election of April 1988. We used a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative methods appropriate to a community study: demographic analysis,ethnographic observation of the City Council and political campaigns, content analysis of English and Chinese newspapers, interviews with candidates and community leaders, interviews conducted during precinct walking with the leading candidates, and finally, participation in an exit poll and statistical analysis of results.

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