“Satellite Chinatowns” in the American suburbs

Here is an overview of how the Chinese population in America has moved from urban Chinatowns to “satellite Chinatowns” in the suburbs:

As the Lunar New Year begins Monday, annual festivities in Washington’s shriveled Chinatown are, for the first time, being promoted by a large marketing firm. New York’s Chinatown, one of the nation’s oldest, has lost its status as home to the city’s largest Chinese population, based on the 2010 census.

Shifts also are under way in Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle, where shiny new “satellite Chinatowns” in the suburbs and outer city limits rival if not overshadow the originals…

She explained that urban Chinatowns continue to serve a role for newly arrived immigrants with less education or lower skills who seek entry-level work, as well as for elderly residents with poor English skills who cannot drive. But middle-class families are almost nowhere to be found, and in many cities, rising downtown property costs and urban gentrification threaten their traditional existence…

“The movement from big-city ethnic enclaves suggests that discrimination and other barriers to upward mobility have declined,” said Daniel Lichter, a Cornell University sociology professor who is president of the nonprofit Population Association of America. Still, traditional Chinatowns aren’t necessarily going away, he says, comparing them to pockets of “Little Italy” where Americans of all backgrounds now shop and eat.

While this article highlights the move of Chinese residents to the suburbs, this is a trend across numerous minority groups. Suburbs used to be formally and informally closed to minorities and yet in recent decades have seen growing minority populations. At the same time, I would still guess that these population shifts in the suburbs are not randomly distributed.

The article hints at the research on “ethnoburbs” but there is a lot more that could be said about this suburban shift. How do these “satellite Chinatowns” differ from urban enclaves and fit in with surrounding urban areas? How many people of other ethnic groups go to these suburban Chinatowns? How do suburbs adapt to the changing demographics?

There is a lot to be explored here in ethnoburbs and other suburbs with significant and/or growing minority populations.

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