A part of the global Pacific Rim, the San Francisco Bay Area has long been home to a large Asian American community including immigrants and native-born residents. Today, 27 percent of Bay Area residents – just over two million people – identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander (API), second only to the Honolulu metro. The Bay Area’s Asian community is among its fastest-growing groups and is also incredibly diverse, representing dozens of different ancestry backgrounds and a multitude of cultures.
Providing demographic data that is disaggregated by ancestry is a critical goal of the Bay Area Equity Atlas, because we know this detailed data can help illustrate key differences within broad racial and ethnic groups. This is particularly true for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community both because if its diversity and because the strong performance of some API groups on important measures of social and economic well-being can mask important disparities, challenges, and barriers faced by other API groups.
For example, our housing burden indicator shows that among broad racial/ethnic groups, Asian American and Pacific Islander renters are the least likely to pay unaffordable rent: 40 percent are rent-burdened, compared with 47 percent of all Bay Area renters and 60 percent of Black renters, who face the highest rates of unaffordability. Yet, 59 percent of Vietnamese renters are rent-burdened, making them one of the most impacted populations on this important indicator of housing security. Policymakers or housing advocates looking only at the broad racial/ethnic groups without examining the more detailed ancestry data might miss this population, hindering the development of equitable policies to address this issue.
As regional leaders develop economic recovery strategies that address the disparate negative impacts of the pandemic as well as longstanding inequities, they must consider the needs of the region’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Some API communities in the region were hit harder by the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. Some are hard to reach because of linguistic barriers: One in five Asian or Pacific Islander households are linguistically isolated, meaning that no member of the household age 14 and above speaks English “very well.” Among Vietnamese households, 34 percent are linguistically isolated. Some face barriers to economic security and mobility. In addition, the documented increase in hate crimes and violence targeting Asian residents since the beginning of the pandemic underscores the persistence of anti-Asian racism throughout the region, affecting many API sub-communities.
This analysis provides a portrait of the Bay Area’s Asian and Pacific Islander community, using our recently-added 2019 American Community Survey data to describe the diversity of the population and to map where more than a dozen Asian sub-communities live across the nine-county region.