While typical media images of “The O.C.” are those of fashionable young white people or white surfers in beach communities, Orange County has grown to contain the third largest Asian American population of any county in the U.S., behind Los Angeles County and Santa Clara county. This LA Times article states how the Asian American Population grew substantially between 2000 and 2010. It also says that the Asian American population has grown in patterns not typically seen elsewhere.
My long held image of O.C. was that of Disneyland and conservative white people. While both are still in Orange County, the 2010 census showed that over half a million of orange County’s 3 million residents are now Asian American. Orange County contains U.C. Irvine, a majority Asian university. 16,000 resident La Palma is the county’s first Asian majority city, with 51% of the population being Asian American. The LA Times article says that the ten year growth has been 41% – my look at the numbers gives 39 percent as shown above.
The Times article says the growth patterns have been unusual in that Asian populations in areas are becoming more balanced. After the Little Saigon around Westminster became one of the O.C.’s first well known Asian American areas, Asian Americans became more affluent and assimilated, moving into areas that are said to have a “pan-Asian” feel, with populations almost equally balanced between Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese with no pre-dominant population. That’s much different from the Asian communities that I am accustomed to in the Bay Area where most of the Asian American population areas are typically dominated by one or two Asian American ethnic groups. La Palma’s population is almost equally balanced between Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese and Japanese, although the Korean population is slightly bigger than the other groups. Pan-Asian shopping centers have sprouted up – again, much different from the Asian shopping centers I go to in Santa Clara County.
While the O.C.’s reality has changed, I don’t think the mainstream mental image of Orange County has changed. That really isn’t surprising, as whites, while not the majority, still make up the plurality of residents. I’m curious if anyone knows places that have similar Asian American population patterns similar to Orange County’s – please leave a comment saying where.