Ethnic diversity raises home values and lowers crime rates in Southern California communities, according to a new study.
Researchers at UC Irvine studied immigration, ethnic diversity and home value data from the 2010 US Census and annual crime reports from cities across Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernadino and Ventura counties.
They looked back 50 years and noticed a distinct change in the past 10 years. It used to be that in cities with more ethnic diversity and immigration, crime rates were higher. Within the last decade, however, communities with more ethnic diversity had less crime, and the number of immigrants had neither a positive or negative impact on crime levels.
In regards to housing, ethnic diversity used to be correlated with slower home value appreciation. Now, it is the opposite. Neighborhoods with higher ethnic diversity -- including Latinos, Asians, African Americans and others -- experienced higher housing appreciation over the decade. In one specific example given, communities with 10 percent more Latinos than surrounding areas at the beginning of the 2000s saw a 1.3 percent greater increase in home values over the past ten years.
John Hipp, associate professor of criminology, law & society who led the team of researchers, told The Huffington Post that the team was surprised by both its crime and housing findings. The next step, he said, is to answer the "why" behind the findings and find out if the changes are unique to Southern California or not. His team will be now look into census data beyond Southern California to find out.
Although he can only speculate about the reasons behind the good news for diverse communities, he conceded that the home value finding could be related to gentrification. The lower crime could have to do with decreased tension between races or increased or improved prevention programs in diverse communities, he said.
Called the inaugural Southern California Regional Progress Report, the study was conducted by researchers with the School of Social Ecology's Metropolitan Futures Initiative, which aims to provide information to guide policymakers in improving the quality of life in Southern California. Five UC Irvine faculty members, 10 graduate students and six undergraduates worked on the report.
But the report may also serve as guidance for policymakers outside of the Southland.
"If this is a general attitude change across the country, there's less of a policy change implication," Hipp said. "But if it's a local change, and California is leading the way, that would provide policy guidance for what other places should do."