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Thread: Thursday, December 01, 2005 Noontime (Social Boundaries) Question from Michaelskis

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Thursday, December 01, 2005 Noontime (Social Boundaries) Question from Michaelskis

    Whoo o Hoooo today is a planning question! We hear of “China Town, Little Italy, Irish Town, Little Havana” and similar places that will have a noticeable concentration of individuals.

    Why do some social, ethnic, or ancestral groups move to and live within a particular part of town? Can individuals who don’t share the same characteristic that identifies the location move in and fit in with the others? More so, how strong are these “Social Boundaries” and how are they enforced?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    OK, maybe I see this way to simply. Have you heard of towns/cities. Isn't that the characteristic you are looking for. Diversity within and area. Within that I would say that the most common would be school districts. Depending on the area you live in, people can be fiercely a lined with a particular school and more so their sports teams.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Mskis, Where do you get off on asking questions about cultural transmission? - that's my department! Please confine all future noontime questions to the following subjects: floss vs toothpicks; lying conniving evil democrats vs honest forthright republicans; how many different ways should style trump substance. Thank you.

    On a more serious note the reason ethnic communities migrate and live together while retaining their 'home' culture is because it's what the people are used to. To adopt other cultural practices involves change and change involves difficulty and it is human nature to avoid encountering difficulties if at all possible.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Mskis,
    On a more serious note the reason ethnic communities migrate and live together while retaining their 'home' culture is because it's what the people are used to. To adopt other cultural practices involves change and change involves difficulty and it is human nature to avoid encountering difficulties if at all possible.
    and, to add to this - it is self regulated, for years the north end of Boston was off-limits for purchasing to non-Italians - so they only sold within their networks

    it's changed with new developments of condo's but some of the flavor is still there

    in Syracuse, NY, my Mom grew up in an area called Tipperary Hill and it was the area you went to when you got off the boat in NYC - it was connected to a Polish neighborhood to one side and a Greek to the other that were clearly bounded by a Catholic Church that had Masses in Polish and a Greek Orthodox church

    it changed alot, but even when my Mom sold her homestead there just a few years ago, she found a family that was the offspring of an original Irish resident to sell to - it never went on the market

    when she married my Dad over 50 years ago, it was considered a "mixed marriage" b the neighborhood because he was German (that German boy was the reference, lol)

    There's something charming about it though technically it's exclusive and it segregates groups from one another - I think the difference is that these neighborhoods are a built-in support system, the village raising children - the very type of connections we seek in new urbanism and great american neighborhoods and co-housing

    to me, this type of ethnic ghettos are "bad" when you can't leave, if there are no opportunities for you elsewhere - it needs to be a personal choice

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    I think the largest reason is that people want to be with and live with people that are similar to themselves. Secondary reasons are that economic and social factors led groups to be forced into certain areas. Today many of these Chinatowns remain although I doubt they have the concentration of immigrants they once did. I can't imagine most Chinese immigrants being able to afford to live in Manhattan although many still do likely living in tight and unsaniatary conditons. I believe that in todays society many ethnic enclaves remain as a focal point for the regions ethnic and maintain an important component in giving a city a sense of place as well as the obvious tourism potetional that these neighborhhods create.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I think it should also be pointed out that suburbs of a major city often take on cultural characteristics. In Chicagoland, you can point out particular suburbs with high amounts of African Americans, East Asians, Jewish people, Indians, Hispanics, Polish, Italians, Slavic, and so forth. For example, Des Plaines has a lot of Polish. Niles has a lot of Indians. Buffalo Grove has a lot of Jews. South Holland has a lot of blacks. Carpentersville has a lot of hispanics.

    I guess it has to do partially with income levels and housing availability as well as access to jobs.

    I think people also like to be near their kind, people they were familiar with in their former homeland, so I guess the settlement patterns are just natural. But as time changes, and generations evolve, more assimilation occurs.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  7. #7
    Most traditional ethinic urban enclaves were not as concentrated as you might think. Most of the Little Italies, Polishtowns, Irish neighoborhoods etc. never approached even 50% of their group at the height of immigration. It is only afterward, as the neighborhood is changing that nostalgia makes everyone think they had higher percentages of the group. For a good discussion of this, see Massey and Denton's American Apartheid.

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    I think what's interesting is, at least in the Chicago area, two things are happening:

    1) The migration pattern established by earlier groups are being followed by more recent groups; and
    2) The migration pattern extends well out into the suburbs.

    This map here at the Encyclopedia of Chicago website shows how different groups established themselves in different places. Mexicans are moving into the same places previously settled by Eastern Europeans. Blacks are following the patterns set by the Irish and Jews on the South Side, and the Italians on the West Side. And the suburbs are picking up the patterns established in the city.

    Who knows why it happens? Familiarity is probably the biggest reason. Uncle Richie the pioneer tells the family that moving to Orland Park was pretty cool, and soon several family members move there too.

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