LocationAlhambra , CA United States
A local advocacy group has come out with a groundbreaking report on the achievements and challenges of the Asian American community in the San Gabriel Valley, pinpointing how community organizations and local government can continue to assist the Asian American population as it grows in this region.
Entitled A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the San Gabriel Valley, the report delves into the astonishing demographics of Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley, including the fact that the region’s Asian population is larger than it is in 42 states individually, as well as in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
While U.S. Census figures put Asians at 5.2 percent of the United States population, this report states that in the San Gabriel Valley, Asian Americans are the second largest ethnic group, and make up 28 percent of the region’s population. Many San Gabriel Valley cities, like Alhambra, have a majority Asian population. Asian Americans have also made great contributions to the region’s economy, with Asian-owned businesses numbering at 82,000, employing more than 91,000 workers who earn more than $2.7 billion in wages.
With those achievements comes challenges, with many Asian Americans living in poverty, stuck in low-wage jobs, and having inadequate access to healthcare, education, affordable housing, voter registration information and other services, namely because of language and cultural barriers. Outcomes often differ across Asian ethnic groups, which is why groups like AAAJ have advocated for breaking such data down by ethnicity and other more specific factors, a practice called data disaggregation.
Data disaggregation has drawn opposition in California, with critics from the Chinese American community in particular saying that it undermines their own efforts to achieve equality.
Yet AAAJ’s Executive Director Stewart Kwoh spoke to the importance of data disaggregation in unmasking disparities among the Asian community’s diverse population. “You have to disaggregate the data so you can treat people in the right ways,” he said, giving as an example of one ethnic group having different health outcomes than another. He also discussed how the report was designed to help community organizations that serve Asian Americans, including getting their input during the research process.
Lily Lee Chen, who became the first Chinese American mayor in the United States in 1983, when she was elected to the position in Monterey Park, spoke about how the report would build on the progress that Asian Americans have made in the San Gabriel Valley. “How can you do anything without the facts and the figures of the reality of today?” she asked.
We have summarized the key points of the report for you, but encourage you to read AAAJ’s full write-up, attached as a PDF.
In the report, AAAJ recommends increased funding to organizations that can provide naturalization assistance, voter registration and voter education to Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents. The report also calls for informing Asian voters about language assistance available to them when voting, including the California Secretary of State’s voter registration website, available in 10 languages.
More than 67 percent of San Gabriel Valley’s Asian population are immigrants, as are 25 percent of the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders living in the region. AAAJ estimates that 58,000 Asian Americans in the region are undocumented. The organization therefore recommends that cities in the San Gabriel Valley locally implement state laws like SB 54, California’s recently passed sanctuary state law. They also recommend the adoption of local ordinances prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, education and other public services, especially when it comes to undocumented immigration.
With ethnic diversity comes diversity in the types of languages Asians in the San Gabriel Valley speak. While more than 260,000 San Gabriel Valley residents speak Chinese, but 47,000 speak Tagalog, 43,000 speak Vietnamese, 29,000 speak Korean and 9,000 speak a Pacific Islander language.
Nearly half of Asian Americans in the region have limited English proficiency, with that percentage increasing significantly among Asian seniors, around 73 percent. This necessitates the adoption of ordinances to provide bilingual assistance, translated materials and other services, when it comes to providing public information.
Contrary to the Asian American model minority stereotype, Chinese Americans 25 years and older in the San Gabriel are less likely than their white counterparts to have a high school or college degree, with similar outcomes for Vietnamese Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Many Asian American students are learning English as a second language, making language access essential to Asian students’ academic achievement. AAAJ recommends increased resources for students and parents with limited English proficiency, as well as financial aid programs and after-school programs that increase access to educational opportunities for all Asian American students living in the San Gabriel Valley.
Income and Employment
In another instance of stereotypes hiding the full picture, more than 66,700 Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley live in poverty, with 15 percent of seniors living below the poverty line, along with 17 percent of Vietnamese Americans, 14 percent of Chinese Americans and 13 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. One-third of Chinese Americans in this area are low income.
While 45 percent of Asian Americans work in high-income occupations like business and science, 16 percent work in low-wage service jobs, with the unemployment rate at 7 percent for Asian Americans in 2015. This necessitates a minimum wage and overtime pay for workers, increased awareness of workers’ rights and access to child care.
Almost 70,000 Asian Americans spend 30 percent of their income on housing costs. The need for affordable housing is even more urgent considering that the median home price in the San Gabriel Valley rose in $662,400 in 2016, compared to $559,000 in L.A. County. Alhambra is home to one of the sharpest housing price increases.
AAAJ therefore advocates for rent control ordinances, as well as the repeal of the statewide Costa-Hawkins law, which limits the reach of local rent control laws. The report also calls for more resources to court mediation programs for homeowners who face eviction or foreclosure.
The report showed a number of serious health outcomes for different Asian American groups. Cancer was the leading cause of death for most ethnic groups, while heart disease was the number one cause for Filipinos, Indians, Japanese, Koreans and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders. For Chinese Americans, the third leading cause of death was flu, with 97 percent of those deaths occurring in seniors in 2015. In terms of mental health, five percent of Asian Americans have had thoughts of suicide.
Nearly 82,000 of Asian Americans in this area are uninsured, leading AAAJ to advocate for a switch to single-payer or universal healthcare coverage. The report also discusses the need for healthcare information that’s available in a variety of Asian languages and delivered in a culturally sensitive manner.
According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, more than 25 percent of the San Gabriel Valley is severely polluted. Thirty percent of Alhambra is in that category, with major culprits including exhaust from nearby freeways and drinking-water contamination. One major recommendation that the report made was to increase access to park space, as well as a recommendation to do a regional environmental assessment that looks on specific effects on Asian American demographic groups.
A representative of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles sits on the Alhambra Source advisory board.
Read the full report below. Updated on Feb. 22, 2018 at 1:07 p.m.