DIALOGUE ON RESEARCH AND POLICY No. 2
Ethnic Residential Clustering and Health in West Coast States
Neighborhood location and attributes powerfully affect residents’ access to critical resources such as quality education, employment opportunities, and health care that can help prevent illness or provide effective treatments. Certain racial and ethnic groups are concentrated in systematically disadvantaged neighborhoods that can negatively affect their well-being. At the same time, residential segregation may have advantages, especially for easing the transition of newly-arrived immigrants from minority groups. Is living in an ethnic enclave healthy or unhealthy for recent immigrants and ethnic minorities?
With support from the West Coast Poverty Center, researchers Emily Walton and David Takeuchi have introduced a new spatial technique for defining ethnic enclaves and have applied it to identify Asian and Latino America enclaves in three counties on the west coast: King County, Washington; Multnomah County (Portland area), Oregon; and Los Angeles County. They then used this spatial technique along with individual health data to present new evidence about the health of Asian and Latino Americans living in ethnic enclaves in these areas, compared to those in more integrated neighborhoods.
The researchers found that, for Asian Americans, living in ethnic clusters may concentrate social and structural advantages relative to living in more integrated areas and may protect individuals in these communitiies from the negative health effects of community poverty. For Latino Americans, however, living in ethnic clusters was associated with higher levels of disadvantage relative to living more integrated areas and the health of individuals living in these areas reflected the poorer neighborhood conditions.
Policy Practitioners Respond
Policymakers commented that they could benefit from a better understanding of the impact of ethnic clustering on health outcomes; one policymaker noted that this could be a way to figure out which areas and populations were being underserved by existing health infrastructures. With respect to the conflicting findings for Asians and Latinos, the researchers and the policymakers agreed that collecting additional data on the characteristics of these neighborhoods could help explain the discrepancy.
The full DIALOGUE report includes more information about the way the clusters were defined, more detailed findings, and a summary of the discussion with the practitioners and policymakers. Download the full report.