Responding to the reflections on A Portrait of Los Angeles County, Measure of America codirectors Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps first provide an overview of how they applied the Human Development Index to Los Angeles, including the categorizing of different neighborhoods from Glittering to Precarious. They then engage with key issues of ethnicity, incarceration, and the ways different parts of LA County are interrelated and affect each other—all issues that emerge from the reflections by Jennifer Lee, Pedro Noguera, and Kelly Lytle Hernandez and Terry Allen.
A Portrait of LA County
In late 2017, the SSRC’s Measure of America (MOA) program released A Portrait of Los Angeles County. The report focuses on well-being in Los Angeles County by providing human development measures on a range of critical issues—including health, education, living standards, environmental justice, housing, homelessness, violence, and inequality—across communities and demographic groups. Items invited a select group of experts on California’s social, political, and economic conditions to write brief reflections on the report. These short essays engage different aspects of the report as well as provide a critical lens into its findings.
In this reflection on MOA’s A Portrait of LA County report, Kelly Lytle Hernandez and Terry Allen connect their research on incarceration and policing in LA to the report’s findings. The same neighborhoods coded as Struggling LA and Precarious LA by the report have the highest incarceration rates, as well as high “collateral damage” of the prison system such as the cost of bail. The authors refer to these parts of the city and county as Caged LA, and argue that an understanding of urban inequality needs to incorporate patterns of incarceration into measures of human development.
In a new response to the recently published Measure of America report A Portrait of LA County, Pedro Noguera unpacks a range of socioeconomic disparities revealed in the report. Noguera calls attention to how comparing inequalities across neighborhoods can miss the ways in which different parts of LA are interconnected—how what happens in one part of the city shapes social outcomes elsewhere. Showing how the lack of affordable housing, long commutes, and poor access to quality education are related, he proposes recommendations for addressing inequality based upon geographic interdependencies.
Jennifer Lee begins Items’ set of reflections on A Portrait of LA County—a new report from the SSRC’s Measure of America program—by building on its data for educational outcomes by ethnicity. In particular, she complicates the myth surrounding the educational success of Asian Americans, and the frequent reference to culture as its principal cause, by disaggregating the category of “Asian.” By exploring class and geographic differences in outcomes, Lee uncovers key socioeconomic dimensions to variations within the “Asian” category as well as between it and other ethnicities in Los Angeles.