Geography of immigrant clusters in global cities: a case study of San Francisco


Cities throughout the world – particularly global cities – are becoming increasingly heterogeneous as a result of international migration movements. During the past three decades, the influx of immigrants into metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco has increased demand for housing, exacerbating the already tight housing markets in these cities. This article focuses on the spatial distribution and housing conditions of immigrants in San Francisco using primarily the 2000 US census data on population and housing down to the census tract level. Building on past research on ethnic enclaves and communities, this article applies spatial analysis methods to identify clusters where Chinese, Filipino and Mexican households – the largest foreign‐born groups in San Francisco – live. The article argues that different immigrant groups show distinct spatial clustering patterns and that there are significant variations in housing outcomes for immigrants within and outside of ethnic clusters. These differences are largely in the direction predicted by the spatial assimilation theory. However, findings such as the high incidence of homeownership within Chinese and Filipino clusters suggest that contemporary immigrants do not necessarily view ethnic clusters as transitory. These findings help to confirm other recent studies showing that immigrants are now spatially clustered in ways that may no longer fit theoretical models derived from the settlement patterns of late nineteenth‐century immigrants. The article contributes to literature concerned with ethnic clusters in US inner cities and the housing conditions of immigrants in global cities.