Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Ethnoburbs in Auckland, New Zealand

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Ethnoburbs in Auckland, New Zealand

Article excerpt

Much research on ethnic minority groups in cities has followed Robert Park's dictum relating spatial distance to social distance, linking evolving settlement patterns to socioeconomic, cultural, and political assimilation. According to this "Chicago model," the original migrants and those who join them initially cluster in poor-quality, high-density, inner-city housing. As their economic situation improves and various barriers between them and their "host society" diminish, they not only move up the housing ladder and out into more expensive, lower-density suburbs but also become more widely dispersed through the residential fabric. Their clusters contract, and their spatial separateness diminishes.

This model was applied successfully to many ethnic groups who moved to U.S. cities during much of the twentieth century and also to comparable groups in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. At that century's end, however, the model appeared less relevant to migrants who were skilled and relatively affluent when they arrived and did not need to concentrate in areas of relatively poor and inexpensive housing, even if they did cluster for sociocultural reasons. These households moved directly to relatively affluent suburban areas, into ethnoburbs (Li 1993, 1998, 2006b), defined by Wei Li as "a suburban ethnic cluster of residential areas and business districts in a large metropolitan area. It is a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural community in which one ethnic minority group has a significant concentration but does not necessarily comprise a majority of the total population" (2006a, 12). The terminology is new, but such spatial expressions are not. Emrys Jones, for example, described a similar situation for Welsh in-migrants to London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (1981).

Ethnoburbs are voluntary creations that differ significantly from traditional ethnic residential concentrations in major respects, not only the choice of relatively low-density, high-value residential areas as destinations for new residents but also deliberate attempts in some cases to create townscapes emphasizing their separate identities (Dunn and Roberts 2006; Wood 2006). Furthermore, the largest ethnic group--from which the area takes its identity--may not dominate the population. According to Li, "the percentage of ethnic people in ethnoburbs may be as low as 10-15 percent in some places, and they seldom become the majority of the community--although their presence can transform local residential composition and business structure and imprint an undeniable ethnic signature on the local landscape" (2006a, 15-16). Finally, ethnoburbs may be more permanent than the concentrations associated with earlier ethnic migrant streams, as they "continue to grow and diffuse spatially and develop socioeconomically[, creating] ... fully functional communities ... [and offering] ethnic populations more space and diversified economic activities" (p. 15).

Although ethnoburbs are a new form within the residential fabric, they do not necessarily replace the residential patterns associated with the Chicago model. Li associates ethnoburb development with Asian migration to the cities of the four Anglophone Pacific Rim countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States); in the United States, at least, more highly educated/skilled Asian migrant groups (from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China, for example) are more likely to conform to her model than are, say, Koreans (Laux and Thieme 2006; Vietnamese migrants to Cabramatta in Sydney--many of them refugees--have created an ethnoburb, however [Dunn 1993, 1998; Dunn and Roberts 2006]). On the other hand, recent Hispanic migrants to the United States are following the same trajectory of residential concentration as other low-skilled groups (Johnston, Poulsen and Forrest 2006). The result is a diverse set of socioeconomic, cultural, and political spatial processes of which ethnoburbs form a part. …

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