Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

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As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, many have pointed to California as an example of demographic shifts projected to take place throughout the rest of the nation due its previous experience with diverse populations. Often, these changes are discussed at the aggregate level (e.g. shifts in California’s immigrant population or Los Angeles County’s increased racial and ethnic diversity). However, this macro-level approach overlooks more local, micro-level shifts taking place across neighborhoods. The spatial approach to neighborhood change draws on Tobler’s First Law of Geography which states “everything is related to everything else but near things are more related than distant ones.” This project will utilize spatial analysis and geographic information systems (GIS) to investigate several forms of neighborhood change taking place throughout California. The project will examine racial and ethnic change in addition to emerging neighborhood trends related to economic, educational, environmental, and other demographic shifts. Using recently released data from the American Community Survey, U.S. Census, and other data sources, this study will provide a spatial portrait of change and provide a place-specific context to California’s transforming neighborhood mosaic. This project seeks to explore how the spatial context and boundaries of California’s neighborhoods have changed over time. This larger body of research extends my current work on emerging Latino middle-class neighborhoods in Southern California. I will train and mentor students in the processes and methodologies related to my own work while preparing to develop their own projects related to topics that might include gentrification, residential segregation, health disparities, and concentrated disadvantage.

Students will be incorporated in various parts of the research process including literature reviews, data extraction, mapping, and the presentation of results through various forms. This research will provide students the opportunity to 1) engage with the literature on neighborhood effects and neighborhood change, 2) be trained in the basics of ArcGIS (mapping software) and other forms of spatial analysis (no previous GIS experience is necessary), 3) develop their own research project related to a particular type of neighborhood change (or focus on a specific metropolitan area), and 4) present their work at multiple venues including the Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), Pacific Sociology Association (PSA) annual meeting, CSU Social Science Student Symposium and/or CSU Research Competition.

In addition to completing traditional research “deliverables,” such as a research note, poster, or oral presentation, students will work to develop and interactive story map ( in an effort to communicate findings to a general audience (including academic and non-academic settings). Other student opportunities might include a visit to ESRI Headquarters in Redlands, CA (ArcGIS developers) and “on the ground” experience visiting select neighborhoods in the region to gain a more in-depth understanding of contextual factors or other information not present in the data.