beckyNicolaides 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 a historical scholar, writer, and 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 is currently serving a 3-year term on the governing council (research division) of the American Historical Association. Becky has consulted extensively on the Survey LA project for the City of Los Angeles and on other historic preservation projects. 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 major funding from the Haynes Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Huntington Library.

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.

“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.”


Becky Nicolaides, “From Resourceful to Illegal: The racialized history of garage housing in Los Angeles,” Boom California, January 31, 2019.

Edited with Andrew Wiese, The Suburb Reader, 1st and 2nd Editions (New York: Routledge, 2006/2016)
-Named one of top 10 books of 2007 by

With Andrew Wiese, “Suburbanization in the United States after 1945,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, April 2017

Becky Nicolaides and James Zarsadiaz, “Design Assimilation in Suburbia: Asian Americans, Built Landscapes, and Suburban Advantage in the San Gabriel Valley Since 1970,” Journal of Urban History, published OnlineFirst, November 5, 2015, forthcoming in print.
-2015 Arnold Hirsch Award, Urban History Association
-2018 Bishir Prize of the Vernacular Architecture Forum

Becky Nicolaides, with maps by Jennifer Mapes, “Map Room: Stay-at-Home Moms in Los Angeles County, 1950-2000,” Map Room feature, California History, vol. 93, no. 3 (Fall 2016), 2-8.

“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

“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.

Radio Electioneering in the American Presidential Campaigns of 1932 and 1936,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, 8, 2 (June 1988), 115‑138.


Becky requests that no mail be sent to her at CSW.



Twitter:  @BeckyNic7