Rise of the Ethnoburbs

Timothy Egan describes growing American ethnoburbs, or "entire cities" (or suburbs) "dominated by a nonwhite ethnic group," and their implications for politics and power.
March 14, 2011, 7am PDT | Rebecca Sanborn Stone
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The term "ethnoburbs" is credited to a 2009 book by Arizona State University professor Wei Li. Egan says these fast-growing cities "are suburban in look, but urban in political, culinary and educational values, attracting immigrants with advanced degrees and ready business skills."

To Egan, ethnoburbs represent a new trend in the geography of cultural diversity. Immigrants used to head straight for a big city's Chinatown or Little Italy. These days, the fastest growing clusters of ethnic groups are in suburban cities that are increasingly nonwhite - Bellevue, WA; Quincy, MA; Monterey Park and Riverside County, CA.

Egan sees major implications for political power balances. Asians and Latinos are significantly underrepresented in Congress, relative to American demographics as a whole, and he believes that ethnoburbs will help to change that.

"As a general rule, I don't think it's good for any democracy to see itself, much less vote, strictly along ethnic lines," he writes. But ethnoburbs "should mean that Asians and Latinos, the dynamo forces of virtually every fast-growing Western state, will get their seat at the political table, at least in California. And since nearly one in eight members of Congress come from this state, Congress should soon look more like the new America."

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Published on Thursday, March 10, 2011 in New York Times
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