The changs next door to the diazes: Suburban racial formation in Los Angeles's San Gabriel Valley

Wendy Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Asian Americans and Mexican Americans began to purchase homes in Los Angeles's San Gabriel Valley in large numbers beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. They approached the task with a full awareness of the realities of structural racial discrimination and the limitations it imposed on where they could and could not live. As largely middle-income homebuyers, however, they had a degree of choice distinct from their poorer, nonwhite counterparts that was also informed by differentiated positions in American racial hierarchies vis-à-vis property - in particular, the model minority status of Asian Americans, and the ambiguously white standing of Mexican Americans. However, even while housing market discrimination shaped their initial movements to a large degree, Asian American and Latina/Latino residents of the area ultimately participated in producing what George Lipsitz has called a moral geography of differentiated space, in which their motivations and long-term actions differed significantly from those of white residents, who fled the area en masse during the same time period. This moral geography is both continuous with earlier histories of multiracial communities in the greater Los Angeles region, and distinctively new. It signifies an emergent multiracial, nonwhite identity that challenges conventional notions of race and class in American suburbs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-35
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Asian Americans
  • Latinas/Latinos
  • Los Angeles
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • property
  • racial formation
  • suburbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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