Infographic Shows The Shifting Racial Makeup of L.A. 20 Years After Rodney King

Over the last 20 years, the divisions between blacks, whites, latinos, and asians have shifted dramatically. But how much is really changing?

Infographic Shows The Shifting Racial Makeup of L.A. 20 Years After Rodney King

We hear that it’s white people–who’ve had a pretty good run in the U.S.–who will become the minority of tomorrow. We hear about Asians and Latinos arriving in larger numbers, often taking over neighborhoods once dominated by African Americans.


We hear about it, but we rarely see it.

Click to zoom.

In a superb piece for Los Angeles Magazine, mapping guru Eric Fischer, who has shown us everything from the world’s distribution of its languages to its geotags, charted the shifting demographics of the L.A. area.

His visualization is beautiful–a pointillist take on racial population densities–that beyond a legend (white people aren’t depicted in white, and black people aren’t black) needs little explanation at all. Rather than piecing together stats and percentages, you can actually see the changes happen.

Over 20 years, Monterey Park, the first mainland American city with an Asian majority, grows from a field into a forest, dotted in rich green. (See the enlargement above.) There’s a marked red to yellow shift in the pigments around San Fernando Valley, where Latinos are now the largest ethnic group. And you can also see as Latinos take over Compton in what has been labeled “black flight.” Compton was a calling card for an entire movement of black hip-hop artists in the ’90s, and now it’s 65% Latino. A touchstone of black inner-city identity has now been completely transformed:

If there’s one thing that’s particularly depressing about this map, it’s not really found in a story of which race ends up where, but in the fact that, over 20 years of so-called progress, these segregated pockets aren’t melding. Rather, they’re shifting in color. From the map’s perspective, nothing about the socioeconomic structure itself is fundamentally changing. No one is necessarily doing better or worse. And tolerance for one’s neighbors doesn’t seem to have improved.

Our colors aren’t blending. We’re just all switching spots.

Click here for Los Angeles Magazine‘s take. And click here for their superb package about race in L.A., 20 years after the Rodney King riots.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.