Saturday, February 11, 2012

Priced Out of Chinatown

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Chinatowns in cities around the country may still be great places to go eat and buy gifts but their Chinese population is declining. According to a recent NPR article, the rising costs of inner city living associated with gentrification coupled with the emergence of "satellite" Chinese enclaves outside the city have meant that immigrant families are far less likely to reside in Chinatowns, choosing the more affordable suburban satellites instead.

This trend may threaten the traditional composition and organization of Chinatowns,  but it certainly hasn't stopped the steady stream of tourists. I was recently in San Francisco's Chinatown and it wasn't uncommon to walk by long lines of people waiting to get into restaurants. Similarly, the brightly-coloured Bazaars appeared to be doing a healthy business. But intermixed with all the hustle and bustle there were some signs of decline: graffitti-clad closed lounges and shops, as well as empty spaces. Still, I don't think Chinatowns are going to disappear anytime soon -- they remain home to many Chinese households and businesses -- and continue to attract all those tourists.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

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