How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Junior Seau meant so much to me and many other Samoan youth'

Junior Seau wasn't the first Samoan American player in the NFL, but he was considered a role model among many of those who followed him into pro football. Seau, 43, was found dead this afternoon in his Oceanside, Calif. home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

Born in San Diego to parents from American Samoa, Seau was a star linebacker who in his career played for the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. In 1994, he helped lead the Chargers to the Super Bowl. He retired in 2010 but remained an icon in his hometown, where last fall was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

He's also one of a long line of Samoan American players in the NFL, several of whom followed Seau's career path from the USC Trojans to the professional teams.


California in the future: Older, less crowded, more second-generation

Photo by sansceriph/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Same lovely scenery as ever, with a changing population

A new California population projection provides a glimpse into what California will look like in the future, a state that will be less crowded than once predicted, whose population will be older, and whose younger faces will be increasingly second-generation.

The new projection from the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy predicts a far slower growth rate than what was projected five years ago, when the state was expected to have 50 million residents by 2032. According to the USC study, that's not expected to happen now until near the middle of the century, in 2046.

A large part of this slowdown comes from immigration slowing to a near trickle. While the percentage of foreign-born California residents rose dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, it's now expected to remain steady at around 27 percent of the overall population through 2030.


Two other murder victims near USC this year, both young men of color

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Police tape at the scene of the murder of two USC students near campus, April 11, 2012

The intensive news coverage of the murder of two international graduate students from China this week near the University of Southern California is understandable: two young people, Wu Ying and Qu Ming, both 23, struck down senselessly in what seemed like a random carjacking or robbery attempt; the fact that both were foreign students far from home, possibly less than familiar with the dangers of their environs; the juxtaposition of a high-cost private university with its working-class surroundings; and the safety concerns for other students arising in the aftermath.

There have been other young people killed near USC in recent months, though not students. This week, as police described the crime situation surrounding USC, they mentioned there had been four murders in the area this year. There have been more homicide deaths in the larger area surrounding USC this year, but the two shooting deaths below were those closest to campus as seen in the Los Angeles Times' Homicide Report, which maps homicide deaths in the city. One victim was Latino, the other was black. Both were young.


How safe do you feel in L.A.? It depends on your race

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KPCC

An officer at the scene of the double murder of two University of Southern California students in Los Angeles' West Adams neighborhood, April 11, 2012

Angelenos needn't brace themselves for another riot anytime soon, according to a new survey released today. But they don't see life in the city the same way, with differences in how they perceive race relations, their safety, and other aspects of life depending at least somewhat on their race and ethnicity.

A couple of weeks ahead of the 20th anniversary of the city's 1992 riots this April 29, Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles has released the results of a survey that shows Angelenos to be generally optimistic about their hometown.

Asked if it was "likely or unlikely" that there would be riots or disturbances like those experienced in 1992 within the next five years, only 41 percent of 1,600 respondents said yes, compared with 61 percent during a similar survey in 1997. An overall majority also said they'd seen progress in race relations.


Study: In low income 'food deserts,' the kind and size of food stores matters

Source: University of Southern California

As Michelle Obama was promoting grocery store access in Inglewood today, the University of Southern California released a report illustrating just where it is that large supermarkets are most lacking in several large metro areas, including L.A.

The report makes a distinction between chain supermarkets, which provide lower prices and a larger selection, and smaller retail food stores, which there are more of, but don't have the economy of scale to provide the best prices or freshest food. Even if there are food stores around, the kind and quality matters, according to researchers. From a USC press release:

“’Retail deserts’ is not an accurate label for many poor neighborhoods,” said Jenny Schuetz, a professor with the USC Price School of Public Policy and the study’s lead author.

“It’s not a matter of how many there are – there are lots of small ‘mom-and-pop’ stores but not many larger chain stores or supermarkets,” Schuetz said. “Having access to bigger stores could mean a larger range of produce and lower prices.”