Los Angeles – USA
Los Angeles is one of the world’s most substantial economic metropolises and ranks highly on various corporate and scholarly registers of ‘global city’ status. Home to the Hollywood motion picture industry, the city has become a globalized ‘idea’ as much as a living place, transferred through images and stereotypes both utopian and dystopian in character. From its founding as a Spanish mission in the late eighteenth century, the greater Los Angeles area is now home to nearly 18 million people.
The city has been the site of tremendous industrial innovation and extraordinary demographic transition, as different waves of immigrants have provided the labour to drive industrial expansion. Rapid transformation has made the city famous for its urban extremes. A world centre of business, trade, entertainment, media and education, the city is also characterized by stark inequalities that are geographically and racially concentrated.
Los Angeles has undergone dramatic demographic change in recent decades, with major increases in Latino and Asian migration. Some 36 per cent of the population and half the workforce are foreign born. 54 per cent of LA County residents speak a language other than English at home and one-third of adults are English language learners. While the largest proportion of migrants are from Mexico, their proportional presence is decreasing. Distinct cultural neighbourhoods have grown up in recent decades including Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Filipinotown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Tehrangeles, and Thai Town and vast sections of the city, especially East LA, have a distinctly Latino-dominated cultural presence.
In 2010 unemployment in LA County hovered around 12 per cent and underemployment around 23 per cent, rising steadily since the onset of economic recession in 2007. Incomes are deeply polarized with rising numbers of working poor and unemployment and low wage, low skill jobs concentrated amongst non-white populations.
LA City has experienced a significant decline in crime since the mid 1990s, reaching a fifty-year low in 2009. Despite these trends, gang violence remains a problem. While there has been limited success in gang reduction, there is increasing recognition in public debate that law and order approaches are not sufficient and longer-term community development approaches are required.
Increasingly viewed as a leading green city, LA City met Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions four years ahead of schedule. In 2009 the mayor launched a major ‘Green LA’ initiative for his second term in office, taking on areas usually left to state and federal levels of government.
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