Resources

Orange County on the Cusp of Change

Once a rural, agricultural region, Orange County has become a vibrant, diverse metropolitan area. Though Orange County has been changing demographically and politically for the past four decades, its common reputation continues to be one of conservatism, right wing activism, homogeneity and affluence. Although it was once the land of Richard Nixon, the John Birch Society, and per Ronald Reagan, “the place where all good Republicans go to die,” the reality is that Orange County is increasingly more heterogeneous and politically diverse. Yet a dominant narrative of wealth and affluence in the county obscures the existing inequality, which varies from city to city and leads to economic and social disparities among residents.

This report aims to understand the key challenges residents of today’s Orange County face. The research is primarily comprised of secondary data including academic research, policy reports, indicator studies, newspaper articles, and government and voting data. In addition, the research process included community forums where community leaders helped shape the analysis of the data.

The following are key findings based on the research:

  • Job growth in low-wage industries will increase economic disparity.
  • High cost of living and economic inequality spread across the county.
  • Environmental issues impact low-income neighborhoods and communities of color more acutely.
  • People of color are the new majority in Orange County, but disproportionately face issues such as poverty, language isolation, and educational attainment challenges.
  • Orange County is seeing dramatic political changes, but political systems pose barriers to participation for low-income and communities of color.

Produced by the UCI Community & Labor Project and the UCLA Labor Center – Saba Waheed, Hugo Romero and Carolina Sarmiento in 2014.

A Community of Contrasts

Produced by Asian Americans Advancing Justice in partnership with the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) in 2014, A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Orange County compiles critical data to paint a more nuanced picture of the county’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Orange County is home to the third-largest Asian American population in the United States. According to the 2010 Census, there are nearly 600,000 Asian Americans and over 19,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) living in Orange County; only Los Angeles and Santa Clara Counties are home to more Asian Americans nationwide. One out of every five residents countywide is Asian American or NHPI. Between 2000 and 2010, Asian American and NHPI populations in Orange County grew 41% and 17%, respectively, faster than any other racial groups. In contrast, the county’s total population grew only 6% over the same period. The Asian American population grew in every city countywide over the decade.

Transforming Orange County

Orange County—the third-most populous county in California and the sixth-most populous in the United States—exemplifies the major demographic shifts sweeping the nation. These shifts have transformed this predominantly homogenous, White, and suburban county into one that is highly diverse and urbanizing, where Asian Americans & Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AA&NHPI) now comprise 21% of the county’s 3 million residents. With nearly 600,000 Asian Americans and over 19,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI), Orange County is home to the nation’s third- largest AA&NHPI population.

Although the county’s fastest-growing population—from 2000 to 2010, the Asian
American population jumped 41% in contrast to 6% growth for the county as a
whole—data and research on AA&NHPI in Orange County are surprisingly
limited. Three years after the data-driven demographic report on the AA&NHPI
of Orange County, Transforming Orange County attempts to better understand the
county’s complex and diverse AA&NHPI community. Relying on rich narrative
context and analysis from diverse community leaders (see table), this report
examines six areas where AA&NHPI strengthen the county but also areas of
concern that have been largely overlooked: (1) building sustainable communities,
(2) economic development and disparities, (3) K–12 and higher education, (4)
health care services, (5) political participation and civic engagement, and (6) civil
rights advocacy. In each of these chapters, we analyze the many contributions
and resources that AA&NHPI bring to the county (“assets”) as well as identify
significant issues challenging AA&NHPI that must be addressed (“needs”), and
conclude with key policy recommendations. With Transforming Orange County,
we seek to increase knowledge, foster dialogue, and reevaluate policies about
AA&NHPI communities in the county, and we hope this report sparks additional
discussion, research, and action.

Produced by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Orange County in 2018.