NEH Supports L.A. County Demographic Data Project


The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced a generous grant to support Understanding Change: The Los Angeles County Demographic Data Project, which will preserve and make accessible a remarkable dataset tracing in granular detail numerous social changes in L.A. County from 1950 to 2010. It includes demographic information, voter registration, poverty, and economic data for Los Angeles and 86 nearby municipalities including cities in the Inland Empire, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, and South L.A.

The dataset was painstakingly gathered over a ten-year period from U.S. Census and State of California data by historian Becky Nicolaides and a team of researchers. Nicolaides, who is an affiliated research scholar with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, explored this trove of demographic data while completing her forthcoming Oxford University Press book, The New Suburbia: Life in L.A. Suburbs Since 1945.

The book builds on Nicolaides’ extensive research on the complexities of suburbanization in Southern California beyond what she calls “the Ozzie and Harriet stereotypes.” Nicolaides investigates the changing racial composition of homeownership in L.A.’s multiracial suburbs and the expansion of Asian American, Latinx, and Black American communities across L.A. County after World War II. The demographic data gathered by Nicolaides and her team has tremendous value for many other researchers who are documenting the complex social realities of changing L.A. County communities.

A USC Libraries team, led by Deborah Holmes-Wong, Andy Rutkowski, and Eimmy Solis, will work closely with Nicolaides on the project to publish the dataset on the USC Digital Library and platforms such as Wikidata, the Open Science Framework, linked open data repositories, and GIS and geospatial data resources. These new digital resources will be made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.