The South Bay's Asian and Hispanic communities have swelled dramatically in the last 10 years, mirroring increases recorded in much of California, newly released census figures show.
The figures, which provide the first detailed look at the ethnic information gathered during the 1990 census, continue a trend that demographers say first became evident in the 1980 census.
"This is a very desirable place for people to migrate to, particularly for Asians and Hispanics," said David Heer, a USC professor of sociology and associate director of the university's Population Research Laboratory.
Heer attributed much of the increase to new immigrants seeking ethnic enclaves like the ones that previous arrivals have created in many South Bay cities. The area's diverse economy also helps to attract new residents, he said.
The figures released Tuesday give information on 16 South Bay cities and Lennox, an unincorporated county area but do not include San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway, which are part of the city of Los Angeles. Information about those communities should become more readily available over the next few weeks.
The statistics that are available, however, show thousands of Asians moving onto the Palos Verdes Peninsula and into Torrance, while Hispanic newcomers are moving into the South Bay's inland areas, such as Inglewood, Hawthorne and Lennox.
The largest changes in Asian population among the four peninsula cities were recorded in Palos Verdes Estates, which saw a 181% jump, and Rolling Hills Estates, which experienced a 186% increase. Experts attributed the leaps to burgeoning Japanese business activity in Torrance, where the number of Asian residents increased 113%.
Among Hispanic populations, Inglewood's 134% increase was the largest in the South Bay, followed by jumps of 91% in Hawthorne and 78% in Lennox.
In the 1990 census, the term Hispanic--as opposed to Latino--is used to describe people of Spanish and Latin American origin. They may be of any race. The term Anglo refers to non-Hispanic whites.
Economic factors apparently played the primary role in determining where new arrivals settled, Heer said.
"We already have documented that the Asian population of Los Angeles County is exceptionally well-educated," he said. "So it's not surprising that they're coming into affluent areas that have very desirable residential neighborhoods."
Many new Hispanic arrivals are coming to California because of poor economic conditions in their home countries, officials said. Hispanics chose inland locations, city officials said, because those cities are more affordable.
"Housing is generally less expensive here than elsewhere . . . and I would say that they receive a warmer welcome here," said Norm Cravens, assistant city manager in Inglewood, where the Anglo population dropped from nearly 21% in 1980 to 8.5% in 1990.
In recent years, the city has made a point of producing public materials in both English and Spanish, hiring more Spanish-speaking employees and encouraging cultural understanding through festivals and other public celebrations.
Inglewood, Hawthorne and the Lennox area also have seen an explosion in the number of children within their borders.
In Inglewood, the school district has had to absorb the increase without building any new campuses.
"Five of our 13 schools are year-round now," Cravens said. "It's been a real challenge."
In contrast, the South Bay's affluent cities have watched their numbers of children plummet.
"What you see now are empty-nest couples in these areas who are not selling their homes--perhaps, I think, because they have such low taxes on them--and so when the children grow up they leave, and their parents remain," Heer said.
The trend has been particularly pronounced on the peninsula, in the three beach cities and in Torrance, statistics show.
It is a direction that saddens some city officials.
"Torrance traditionally has been a family community, and families should include children," Mayor Katy Geissert said. "It's troublesome to think that our housing stock has become so expensive that we're precluding young families from living here in increasing numbers."
Following are the latest U.S. Census figures on the racial/ethnic population breakdown in South Bay communities compared to the 1980 totals. In the data, the U.S. Census makes a distinction between racial groups and ethnic groups. All categories except "Hispanic" are considered racial groups. Anglos are non-Hispanic whites. The "Hispanic" category is considered an ethnic group and includes Hispanics of all races. All of the groups together represent the total population picture.