More than a half-million Asian Americans live in the San Gabriel Valley — more than there are in 42 states or in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago — and constitute a community adversely affected by poverty and environmental challenges, according to a new study by an Asian American group.
The study titled “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the San Gabriel Valley” was released Wednesday by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.
“The Asian American population in the San Gabriel Valley is a community deeply impacted by poverty and low-wage work, affordable housing concerns, and environmental challenges,” said Jeffer Giang, Research Analyst at Advancing Justice-LA and the report’s primary author. “With over two-thirds born outside the U.S., it is a rapidly growing community directly impacted by the current debate on immigration.”
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of majority Asian American cities in the San Gabriel Valley doubled from six to 12. Chinese Americans make up over half of the valley’s Asian American population but the region is also home to large Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean American populations.
The report also estimates there are approximately 58,000 undocumented Asian Americans living in the San Gabriel Valley.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, thousands of Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific islanders in the San Gabriel Valley are low-income or live in poverty, many working in service industry jobs whose pay is the lowest in the region, said a statement accompanying the study.
American Community Survey data for 2015 show that more than 66,700 Asian Americans and nearly 1,000 Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the region live below the poverty line, with nearly a third of Asian Americans overall being low-income.
More than 45 percent of Asian Americans and 37 percent of Hawaiians and Pacific islanders work in management, business, science, and the arts, and a majority work in other occupations. Approximately 16 percent of Asian Americans and 18 percent of Hawaiians and Pacific islanders are employed in service-related occupations, working in restaurants, nail salons, or as caregivers, according to the study.
Across the San Gabriel Valley, median earnings for all service industry workers fell between $17,476 and $18,576 and were lowest among major occupational categories, the study found.
Data included in the report also show both rising housing costs and thousands of Asian Americans who spend more than they can afford on rent and mortgages. Between 2015 and 2016, the average rent in the San Gabriel Valley increased 4.9 percent. In 2016, the median home price rose to $662,400, compared to $559,000 countywide.
According to 2015 American Community Survey data, nearly 69,000 Asian Americans in the region are burdened by the high cost of housing, spending 30 percent or more of their household income on housing costs. Over 52 percent of Asian American renters and 49 percent of Asian American homeowners with a mortgage spend 30 percent or more of their household income on housing, the study found.
Additionally, data from the California Environmental Protection Agency and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment show that the San Gabriel Valley is home to some of the most polluted parts of California, with more than 25 percent of the San Gabriel Valley severely polluted. Particular pollution challenges facing the region include the release of toxic chemicals from industrial facilities south of the 10 Freeway; drinking-water contamination in Alhambra, Arcadia, Irwindale, Monterey Park, Temple City, and West Covina; and exhaust from vehicle traffic along the 10, 60, 210, and 605 Freeway corridors.
—City News Service