Professor publishes book about Southern California economy

American studies professor Juan De Lara has researched the economy’s impact on Southern California communities outside L.A. since the early 2000s. (Kevin Lu | Daily Trojan)

As the son of immigrants, American studies professor Juan De Lara started picking fruit when he was four years old to earn money.

Wages were low and the work was difficult, but the experience helped him realize the importance of education.

This year, De Lara published his book “Inland Shift: Race, Space, and Capital in Southern California,” which was developed in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

De Lara’s book is a conversation about  new ways to examine how economic issues impact local communities, similar to the one he grew up in. He will speak on a panel for his new book on Nov. 13.

“[The book] is thinking about Southern California and about the process of globalization and what that meant for the racial and class politics of Southern California as a region,” De Lara said. “I look at things like the ports and the expansion of the logistics industry and what that did to jobs.”

De Lara said he started researching this topic in the early 2000s because he wanted to learn more about Southern California outside of Los Angeles However, he faced difficulties during the process because of the limited research conducted in the areas around the Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

To ameliorate the gap in literature, De Lara said he believed it was appropriate to publish his book now, to further educate the audience.

“Nobody was really writing about the area and what was going on and from an academic perspective,” De Lara said. “I thought it was time that somebody published a book that’s specifically focused on the region.”

De Lara said that since the 1990s, the Inland Empire experienced an economic shift that drastically changed the demographic makeup and landscape. When he tried to conduct further research, De Lara discovered a lack of related academic studies.

“There has been a tendency to think of the drama of social movement mobilization playing out in our major cities like Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco,” Manuel Pastor, a professor of sociology and American studies and ethnicity, said in an email to the Daily Trojan.

According to Pastor, the economic growth in the region was influenced by what was happening in the Inland Empire.

“We wouldn’t have L.A. and Long Beach emerge as the biggest ports in the country without the kinds of warehousing facilities that have grown in Riverside and San Bernardino counties,” De Lara said.

De Lara also noted that the two counties were the fastest growing part of California, with one of the largest concentrations of Latinx and immigrant population.

The book takes a look at how logistics shaped the demographic and regional makeup of Southern California. It also examines the pockets of resistance in fighting against economic and social disparity in the region.

“The other thing is the emergence of a new kind of political class of [a] very young population that is beginning to now assert themselves in terms of becoming involved in politics,” De Lara said. “It’s been a rich environment to understand how the politics of race and class and culture have taken hold in the region.”

De Lara’s research has given the Inland Empire greater exposure by opening a door for different groups to understand and better serve the region.

“He has been able to bring this research into the public sphere to influence how policy makers, community based organizations, and funders view global trade and its local level impacts,” sociology professor Jody Vallejo said in an email to the Daily Trojan.

Much of De Lara’s research directly showcases the Latinx community and issues related to their communities. As a Latinx academic, he finds creating conversations about his history helps Latinx students at USC feel more comfortable.

“I talk about my own history in order to make sure that students … understand that they can come talk to me or I can sort of provide some mentorship,” De Lara said. “And I think I’ve benefited from that.”