LOS ANGELES (AP) — Far from its reputation as the land of endless sprawl, Southern California has some of the nation’s most crowded neighborhoods, according to a newspaper’s analysis of population data.
The Los Angeles Times reported that of the most heavily crowded 1 percent of census tracts in the United States, more than half are in Los Angeles and Orange counties. To be “crowded,” a home must have more than one person per room, excluding bathrooms.
Cities south of Los Angeles such as Maywood and Huntington Park may have small bungalows and apartment buildings that are low-slung, not high-rise — but they are home to thousands more people per square mile than cities such as Chicago and Boston.
The newspaper analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 and concluded that in the most densely packed neighborhoods, about 1 in 6 homes have more than two people per room.
Seven people live in Josefina Cano’s apartment, which is about the size of a two-car garage.
“We’re not comfortable,” Cano said, in Spanish. “But what can we do? It’s better than being on the street.”
Thanks to the proliferation of bigger homes after World War II, and in the 1970s smaller families, crowding was not so pronounced. Crowding increased with immigration in the 1980s.
That difference has persisted — Hispanic households in Los Angeles are more than 12 times more likely to be crowded than white households, the newspaper reported.
Some scholars cite cultural reasons for the difference, including that having more people in a home can help pay the rent.
Fernando and Emma Solis share a single-bedroom back cottage in Bell with their two grown daughters. Each night, they rearrange the living room so their daughters can sleep.
Though 21-year-old Angelica earned enough money to move out, she did not.
Despite the cramped quarters — and attendant frustrations — “it keeps us close,” she said.