The average person thinking about the ethnic composition of southern California will naturally (and accurately) think about a large Hispanic population, originating largely in Mexico, but also from other Central American countries. Historically, California's Asian population has been concentrated up north in the Bay Area. Over the past few decades things have been changing, however, and a story in today's Orange County Register (with thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for the link) shows that Asians outnumber other groups in the City of Irvine, in southern California's Orange County.
New census estimates show that, for the first time, Irvine has more Asian than white residents. It’s a thin lead, well within the report’s margin of error, but the strongest evidence yet of what many residents, scholars and real estate professionals see as an accelerating trend.
Using the new census figures, a Register analysis indicates Irvine now is – or soon will be – the largest city in the continental United States with an Asian plurality. Among larger municipalities, only Honolulu has more Asians than any other race.
The Asian influx is part of a larger nationwide pattern, said Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at UC Irvine. Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, accounting for nearly two in five new immigrants, according to Pew Research Center. Their top destination is Greater Los Angeles, according to the Migration Policy Institute, because of the region’s Pacific Rim location, mild weather and well-established Asian communities.
I once asked a person just returning from Singapore how they would describe that city-state. The answer was only partially a joke: "It's a lot like Orange County but with fewer Asians!" Now, strictly speaking, Orange County is still predominantly non-Hispanic white (and Singapore is still predominantly Asian), but the City of Irvine may well be a sign of where the future is headed in the region.