Monterey Park, California: the first American community with over 50% residents with Asian ancestry

Scholars who study ethnoburbs note the importance of Monterey Park, California. Here is one reason why:

Monterey Park, about seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles, has a population of about 60,000 people, about 65 percent of whom are Asian American and 27 percent are Hispanic or Latino, according to government data. In the 1990s, it claimed to have become the first city in the continental United States to have a majority of residents with Asian ancestry.

More communities near Monterey Park have joined this group and there are additional communities throughout the United States that are majority-minority suburbs. As the suburbs continue to become more diverse, more communities will become ethnoburbs though which racial and ethnic groups are present can differ.

266 US counties have white populations under 50% but are the same processes at work in all of them?

A recent Pew report shows the counties in the United States with majority-minority populations:

Pew crunched Census numbers from the 2,440 U.S. counties that had more than 10,000 residents in 2013. Whites made up less than half the population in a total of 266 counties. Even though these 266 counties made up only 11 percent of the counties analyzed, they contained 31 percent of the country’s total population, with many of them home to dense urban areas.

Most of these counties are sprinkled around the Sun Belt states in southern part of the country (below).

Of the 25 counties with the largest total populations, 19 now have non-white majorities. As of 2000, six of these (four in California and two in Florida) had white majorities. The most dramatic change within the last decade can be seen in counties in Georgia. The share of white residents in Henry County, for example, fell from 80 percent in 2000 to a little less than 50 percent in 2013.

It is interesting to see where these counties are located and think of the social forces that led to this. Not all of these counties have the same mix of minority groups or the same history. Some of the counties are those with large cities where white populations declined with suburban growth. Some of the counties are in the South with large black populations. There are some counties in the Great Plains, southwest, and northwest that have large Native American populations. There are counties with large Latino populations, largely in the southwest and those involving immigrant gateways. There are also some counties with large Asian populations – the phenomenon behind the concept of ethnoburbs – though I wonder if there are many with 50% or more Asians.

Thus, while this data corroborates the ongoing trend of whites constituting a smaller percentage of the American population (currently around 63%), the increasing minority population is not monolithic nor does it influence all places in the same ways.

A growing number of “majority-Asian suburbs”

Here is a look at “majority-Asian suburbs“:

In 2000, researchers discovered that 52 percent of immigrants in metropolitan areas were living in suburbs. One facet of this transformation has attracted less scrutiny: over the last quarter century, hundreds of thousands of Asian migrants have arrived in the suburbs.

The best place to witness this rapid transformation is in the suburbs east of central Los Angeles, an area known as the San Gabriel Valley. In 1980, few would have imagined that the region would today be a cluster of majority and near-majority Asian suburbs…

The rapid Asianization of suburbanization occurred alongside steady Latino migration. In some San Gabriel Valley suburbs, the new Asian arrivals lived alongside Latinos (both multi-generational and immigrants) and whites. In these “tri-ethnic” suburbs, demographic transitions were often marked by some tension. In other suburbs, the neighbors of the new Asian arrivals were mostly white. (More disturbingly, with a few major exceptions like Pasadena, black households typically made up less than 5 percent of households in these suburbs.)…

The uniqueness of this pattern of suburbanization cannot be overemphasized. In 2010, of the 29,514 geographic areas across the country defined as “places” by the United States Census Bureau – which typically correspond to recognized cities, towns, suburbs, and other, mostly unincorporated, areas – only 37, or 0.1 percent, were majority-Asian. If one considers places where the percentage of Asian households is 25 percent or higher, still only 183 places—0.6 percent of the total—meet the cutoffAll 183 places are in about a dozen states, most of which contain only a handful of them, and the vast majority are small places with fewer than 10,000 households. California is the enormous exception: the state alone has almost forty places with more than 10,000 households and an Asian household percentage of at least 25 percent. Hawaii, the only other state with multiple places meeting these criteria, has just five.

This is a good introduction to the topic but if you want more detail, check out the academic literature on ethnoburbs as people have been tracking this phenomenon since at least the late 1990s. Wei Lei has a book titled Ethnoburb: The New American Community that is quite interesting and takes a closer look at a number of these majority-Asian suburbs outside Los Angeles.

A reminder: the suburbs have become increasingly non-white in recent decades.