“Where Are We Now? Measuring Social Capital and Civic Engagement in South L.A.”

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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


For the past century, urban studies scholars have argued that neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status, visible signs of social disorder and a large population of recently arrived immigrants hinders civic engagement and sense of community. South L.A. is a region that is under researched and known notoriously only for its reputation for crime. Today, South L.A. has undergone many changes and is a place ready for the next step of community development. Low socioeconomic status does not determine if sense of community or civic engagement exists as this takes different shapes and forms compared to traditional forms of civic engagement. The history of place and space adds another level of complexity as South L.A.’s black presence has shaped the ways in which community was produced among immigrant Latinos and African Americans. Unlike quantitative surveys, this study uses interviews to capture and interpret resident’s feelings about their neighborhood, sense of community, and civic engagement. I used mixed methods including interviews, field observations and a content analysis of a local ethnic newspaper to provide a snapshot of community engagement in South LA. Residents feel that crime has decreased significantly in the past ten years and that this has helped with the sense of community and trust among neighbors. Despite having witnessed some sort of assault, all feel a sense of pride about South L.A. and it is shown in the newspapers that the black community still relies on churches as their outlet for civic engagement but the same cannot be said for Latinos as little was shown regarding their engagement; this finding correlates that of Pastor et. al (2016).


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