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A Patchwork of Ethnicity : Decade Sees Large Increase in Foreign-Born Population in Many Cities

THE CHANGING FACE OF THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY: A look at the demographic changes reflected in the 1990 Census. One in a series.


SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — A new wealth of data emerging about the San Gabriel Valley indicates that the vast swath of land from Pasadena to Pomona and Bradbury to El Monte has grown more crowded and its residents younger, richer, more educated, less white and more likely to be born in another country. A year and a half after the initial population findings from the 1990 Census were released, demographers now are scrutinizing the secondary information: income, education, types of households, length of residency, homelessness.

Many of the census trends in the San Gabriel Valley are mirrored throughout California. Of 34 San Gabriel Valley cities and unincorporated communities studied, 13 have Anglo majorities, 11 have Hispanic majorities and one--Monterey Park--has an Asian majority. The other cities are ethnic patchworks where no single group dominates.

Census data indicate that during the '80s, Anglos moved out of the western San Gabriel Valley and into planned communities in the eastern valley, such as Diamond Bar and Walnut. Asian populations also surged in those cities, as well as in prosperous and suburban Hacienda Heights.

Walnut, one of the biggest boom towns in the state, grew a stunning 133%, followed by neighboring Diamond Bar, which grew 91.4%. Populations were up almost everywhere except in the business-dominated City of Industry, which lost 5% of its people, and tiny Bradbury, which lost 2% of its population--or 17 of its 846 residents.

Incomes rose throughout the San Gabriel Valley, although not uniformly. As of 1990, Bradbury was the most affluent city, with a median household income of $105,178, followed by San Marino, with $100,077. The next richest cities are Walnut, $64,333, and Diamond Bar, $60,651.

Conversely, the poorest city was South El Monte, with a median household income of $27,074, followed by El Monte with $28,034 and Rosemead, $29,770. Bradbury's wealth was up 63%, but El Monte's median household income increased by only 21%. The poverty level for a family of four was $12,674 in 1990, according to the U.S. government.

In many cases, income levels corresponded to education levels. South El Monte and El Monte are the poorest cities in the San Gabriel Valley and they also have the lowest percentage of residents with graduate or professional degrees--1.9% and 1.7% respectively.

Meanwhile, San Marino had the highest percentage of residents with graduate or professional degrees. Not surprisingly, Claremont, home to the six prestigious Claremont Colleges, has the second highest number of residents with advanced degrees. Other erudite cities: Bradbury, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

More San Gabriel Valley residents went off to college in the 1980s, and many cities posted healthy increases in the number of bachelor's degrees. Among the cities with the highest gains were Irwindale with 217%, Walnut with 154%, Rowland Heights with 141%, Diamond Bar with 113% and Covina with 103%.

By 1990, many cities had large foreign-born populations, including Rosemead, El Monte, Alhambra and Monterey Park, where about half the residents were born outside the United States. In many cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley, half of the foreign-born residents have arrived since 1980.

Asians continued to settle in great numbers throughout the San Gabriel Valley, as diverse in background as the wealthy Hong Kong native fleeing Communism, the middle-class Korean businesswoman and the penniless Vietnamese refuge who brought only his industriousness.

They came to well-entrenched Asian suburbs such as Monterey Park--now 56% Asian--as well as new planned communities such as Walnut--36.3% Asian as of 1990. Meanwhile, the last decade saw a decrease of 49.8% in Monterey Park's black population and 47.4% for Anglos.

Other communities where Asians make up 30% to 40% of the total population are Alhambra, Rosemead, South San Gabriel, San Marino and San Gabriel. There are no comparable figures from the 1980 census because Asians weren't counted separately then. In the 1990s, demographers say, the economic power of Asians in the San Gabriel Valley has started translating into political power. Judy Chu, a former mayor of Monterey Park and Norman Hsu, who last year won election to the 22,000-student Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board, are but two examples of this trend.

Don T. Nakanishi, an associate professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, says reapportionment and political representation will become increasingly important to Asians this decade, especially in areas such as the West San Gabriel Valley.

Latino populations--which the U.S. Census identified as ethnic Hispanic--were up in almost every San Gabriel Valley city. The exception was Monterey Park, which actually saw a decrease of 2,048, or 9.7%, in its Latino population.

The biggest percentage gains for Latinos were in Walnut, which showed a 167% gain; Covina, 158%; Pomona, 139%; Diamond Bar, 132%, and Glendora, 108%.

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