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Becky Nicolaides

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Becky Nicolaides

Research Scholar since 2007

This project brings a historical perspective to questions of how the texture of suburban social and civic life has changed over time, why it has changed, and the implications for future planning approaches.  

Nicolaides received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1993, and went on to serve on the faculties of Arizona State University West and UC San Diego.  She left her tenured post at UCSD in 2006 to become an independent scholar and historical consultant.  She serves as co-editor for the “Historical Studies of Urban America” series published by University of Chicago Press and is the co-coordinator of the L.A History And Metro Studies group at the Huntington Library.  She consulted on the Survey LA project for the City of Los Angeles and on a historic preservation project on L.A.’s Central Avenue, which won two awards. She is at work on her third book, to be titled On the Ground in Suburbia: A Chronicle of Social and Civic Transformation in Los Angeles Since 1945, with support from a Haynes Major Research Grant and a NEH fellowship.

Her project is concerned with how suburbia has influenced patterns of social and civic engagement over the past half century. In recent years, a spate of studies has suggested that social capital has been in decline in American, at least since the 1970s. Suburban sprawl is often implicated in this decline. While most of these studies have been done by political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists, historians have yet to explore the issue in a systematic way. This project brings a historical perspective to questions of how the texture of suburban social and civic life has changed over time, why it has changed, and the implications for future planning approaches.  In exploring these themes, she interrogates the critical roles that gender, children, and family life have played in these transformations, the social impact of racial politics, and the ways that immigration has changed the texture of suburban life.


"Introduction: Asian American Suburban History," Special Issue "Asians in the Suburbs," guest edited by Becky Nicolaides, Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol 34, No. 2, Winter 2015.

“Suburban Landscapes of Los Angeles,” in Overdrive: Los Angeles Constructs the Future, 1940-1990, edited by Wim de Wit and Christopher James Alexander (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, April, 2013)

“Race and the contours of suburban engagement: the case of Pasadena, California,” in Suburban Histories: Life, Culture, and Community, edited by John Archer, Paul Sandul, and Katherine Solomonson (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming)

Suburban Disequilibrium, New York Times, opinionator blogs, April 7, 2013

“Suburbia and Community,” CSW Update, January 2008

Edited with Andrew Wiese, The Suburb Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006).

“How Hell Moved from the City to the Suburbs: Urban Scholars and Changing Perceptions of Authentic Community,” in The New Suburban History, eds. Kevin Kruse and Tom Sugrue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

“The Neighborhood Politics of Class in a Working-Class Suburb of Los Angeles, 1920-1940,” Journal of Urban History, 30 (March 2004): 428-451.

“Suburbia and the Sunbelt,” OAH Magazine of History, 18 (October 2003).

“Lesson Plan: How to Read a Suburb,” OAH Magazine of History, 18 (October 2003).

"Lesson Plan: Professional Sports and Sunbelt Cities," OAH Magazine of History, 18 (October 2003)

My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

“‘Where the working man is welcomed’: Working-class suburbia in Los Angeles, 1900-1940.” Pacific Historical Review 68, 4 (November 1999): 517-559.  Reprinted (with changes) in Michael Roth and Charles Salas, eds., Looking at Los Angeles: Architecture, Film, Photography and the Urban Landscape (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2001).

“The state’s ‘sharp line between the sexes’: Women, alcohol, and the law in the United States, 1850 1980.” Addiction  91, 8 (August 1996): 1211-1229.

"The Rise of Boss Microphone" The Washington Post, Jul 17, 1988; page 59.


Becky requests that no mail be sent to her at CSW. If you need to contact her, e-mail her at

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