“¡Se Ve! ¡Se Siente! ¡El Pueblo está Presente!” OUT NOW

New USC Study Highlights Strategies to Strengthen Latino Communities in the Inland Empire, A Region Projected to Balloon to 74% Latino by 2060

The Inland Empire is a vast and vibrant region that continues to outpace growth in nearly every other part of California. Central to this growth is a dynamic and booming Latino population which currently comprises 52% of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, or an estimated 2.37 million residents. The Inland Empire is home to the United States’ fifth largest population of Latinos and this demographic is expected to balloon to 74% of the region’s population by 2060. This region in transition must ensure that its various systems and institutions transform to meet the emerging needs of this growing — and increasingly younger – population. The current median age for Latinos in the region is 29, compared to 47 for the white population.

For decades, the IE has provided a safety valve for Los Angeles County and Orange County residents who were priced out of coastal California’s housing market. The region also offered sanctuary for Black and Latino families who sought a slower-paced way of life. Consequently, Los Angeles County and Orange County households were the largest source of net migration into the Inland Empire. The Inland Empire has also been a refuge for LA’s ports. As Los Angeles and Long Beach invested billions to become the largest gateway for global trade in the United States, vast tracts of relatively cheap land provided space for millions of square feet of new warehouses.

What happens when this safety valve stops working? There are signs that housing is becoming less affordable. More and more cities in the IE are blocking warehouse expansion. California legislators have recently said that they intend to fine and closely regulate polluting warehouses in the Inland Empire. Riverside and San Bernardino counties are already home to some of the most polluted air in the United States. Increasing temperatures and scarce water tied to climate change will force significant changes. The question is – how will we address climate change in communities that are working class and increasingly Latino, Black, and Asian?



The USC Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies released today findings from its new report ¡Se Ve! ¡Se Siente! ¡El Pueblo está Presente!: An Analysis of a Region in Transition from the Perspective of Inland Empire Latino Organizational Leaders [LINK]. This qualitative study shares insights from select Inland Empire Latino organizational leaders and organizers who provide their first-hand experiences and observations about the challenges in the region, but also the immense opportunities to set the region on a path for success and inclusion.

“The Inland Empire is a region on the rise and Latinos will play a central role in the region’s future,” said Dr. Juan De Lara, Director of the USC Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies and lead author of the new study. “For the region to continue to flourish, it must invest wholeheartedly in its communities, especially its Latino majority. The roadmap for the future is clear: uplift, invest, and progress.”

Key Findings:

  • Invest in the Region’s Future by Investing in Latino Communities Directly: If the Inland Empire is going to thrive in the immediate future, then it must invest in its emerging Latino majority. Such an investment should be seen as essential to the region’s development as a whole. As we outline in this report, this investment should focus on economic sustainability, education, housing, the environment, and racial equity.
  • Transform Institutions to Meet Emerging Needs: Established institutions must evolve to meet the needs of Latino communities. Most of the existing governance systems and institutions have not prioritized Latinos, that is what many of our focus group and survey respondents expressed to us. Fixing this will require existing social services, public agencies, and civic organizations to expand access and services to these communities.
  • Expand Leadership Capacity: Given the region’s demographic transition, intentional investment in leadership capacity will be required for Latinos to play key roles in institutions they have historically been excluded from. A greater role within regional institutions will increase cultural competence in service delivery and governance for Latino communities.
  • Create New Institutions and Community Networks: In some instances, the region’s burgeoning Latino majority will require new institutions and community networks to adequately address its particular needs. Funders and policymakers should invest time and resources in innovative approaches, especially in future-planning strategies that focus on youth.
  • Support Latino Youth: Investment in youth-serving organizations is especially important given the region’s relatively young population.1 More than one third of the IE’s total population is under the age of 25. Latinos are particularly young, with a median age of 29. Today’s youth will play a key role in shaping the region’s future. Investing in young people will benefit Latino communities and the IE in general.

The Inland Empire is a region in transition and Latinos will play a critical role in shaping its future,” said Jesse Melgar, Founder and Chair of the Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity, or, CIELO Fund. “What’s clear is that more investment is needed for Inland communities to thrive and this report provides insights as to where investment can carry the greatest impact. We thank the USC Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies for producing this study and creating a baseline to have important conversations about possible directions that center the voices of Latino leaders from our region.”

About the Study

The USC Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies conducted 2 focus groups with 11 representatives of IE-based Latino organizations. They also administered a survey with 22 non-profit and community-based, Latino led organizations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Most of these participants work on issues related to education, employment, the environment, immigrant rights, healthcare, civil rights, and the arts.

While over 66% of respondents indicated their organization primarily serves Latino communities, many also work with other racial and ethnic groups, notably Black and Indigenous communities. More than 63% of our respondents reported that they have five or fewer staff. Budgets for these organizations tend to be small, with 58% of responding groups saying they have annual budgets of less than $500,000. When asked to define the nature of their work, nearly 50% of those surveyed described themselves as base building and community organizing groups. Nearly 80% of these organizations do their work in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

This report was made possible by a generous grant from the Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity Fund, or CIELO Fund.


Research Team

Lead Author

Juan D. De Lara, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies

University of Southern California



Manuel Pastor, Ph.D.

Director, USC Equity Research Institute

Veronica Terriquez, Ph.D.

Director, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center


Research Assistants

Cathleen Calderón, Ph.D. Candidate

American Studies and Ethnicity, USC

Maria Gutierrez-Vera, Ph.D. Student

History, USC

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Spotlight: Library for International & Public Affairs (LIPA) Workshops

The USC Library for International & Public Affairs (LIPA) and the USC Libraries Data and Visualization Workshops team have put together an amazing set of sessions for the coming months. We encourage you to check them out and attend one if possible! Click here to see their schedule and workshop details and goals.

Meet the 2023 CLLAS Summer Research Grant Recipients

CLLAS has awarded six summer research grants to PhD students across disciplines at USC. We are excited to support their critical work!

Welcome Back Message from Director Juan De Lara


Dear Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies Community,

I hope this message finds you well as we return to campus. I’m thrilled to announce that we will be launching several new research initiatives this year. I have outlined these below. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about these exciting projects.

Supporting Latino Civic Engagement in Southern California’s Inland Empire

The Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area is home to the country’s fifth-largest Latino population. While Latinos emerged as the majority after the 2020 Census, the region’s institutions have not kept pace with the demographic shift. Our Center, in partnership with the Inland Empire Community Foundation’s CIELO Fund, is preparing a report on Latino community and nonprofit organizations in the Inland Empire. This collaboration will outline strategies to strengthen Latino communities in the Inland Empire.

Equity and Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change in California’s Urban Centers

Thanks to a gift from and partnership with The Nature Conservancy, our Center will work on building new alliances between environmental justice organizations, community groups, and environmental organizations to support nature-based solutions to climate change. The joint endeavor seeks to champion equity-driven approaches to the climate crisis. The overarching aim? To ensure that California’s sprawling urban landscapes are not only environmentally sustainable but also accessible to every resident, irrespective of their socio-economic background.

Restorative Justice in Coachella Valley Schools

Our Center has developed a partnership with Alianza Coachella Valley to produce a study on school-based discipline practices. The report will also suggest ways to incorporate restorative justice approaches across all schools within the 16.6 thousand student Coachella Valley School District. We think that restorative justice strategies will provide a more inclusive and harmonious educational environment for students and educators alike.

Precarious Ecologies Mellon Sawyer Seminar

In addition to these new initiatives, our Center will continue to host regular cultural gatherings and intellectual conversations. Furthermore, our Precarious Ecologies Mellon Sawyer Seminar continues to thrive, with a series of enlightening sessions planned for the year. I’m genuinely excited about the journey ahead and the potential for meaningful impact. Your engagement and contributions will be instrumental in these endeavors.

Report on “Federal Policy to Advance Racial, Ethnic, and Tribal Health Equity”

Finally, I’d like to highlight a health equity report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. I had the privilege of serving on the committee that penned “Federal Policy to Advance Racial, Ethnic, and Tribal Health Equity.” This report, commissioned by the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services, examines the impact of historical and current federal policies on racial and ethnic health disparities. I urge you to review and share this significant work. You can read and download the report here.



Juan De Lara, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies

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