Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

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A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Orange County, 2014

Produced in partnership with the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA), 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.

Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are growing in size and diversity

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.


The Census Bureau provides data for 27 distinct Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups in Orange County. While the county’s Vietnamese American population remains both the largest in the United States and the largest Asian American ethnic group countywide, the Korean American population grew to become the county’s second largest. The fastest growing Asian American ethnic groups are South Asian, with Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani American populations growing faster than any others.

Asian American and Pacific Islander communities continue to face challenges

As these communities grow at top rates, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Orange County continue to face particular challenges. While Asian American– and Pacific Islander–owned business in Orange County have created over 96,000 jobs and stimulated economic growth, U.S. Census Bureau data also show that Asian Americans in Orange County have been affected by the economic recession. The number of unemployed Asian Americans countywide grew 123% from 2007 to 2012.  The number of Asian Americans living in poverty increased 51% over the same period.

NHPI in Orange County face particular challenges. Data from the California Department of Education show that NHPI students are both less likely to graduate from high school and to have completed the required courses for college admission. Among adults, only Latinos are less likely than Samoan Americans to have a college degree. Data from the California Department of Public Health show that NHPI have a death rate higher than all other racial groups countywide.

Great potential for Asian American and Pacific Islander civic engagement

The report also shows record numbers of Asian Americans and NHPI in Orange County are engaging in the political process by registering to vote and casting ballots. As of the 2012 General Election, nearly 230,000 Asian Americans were registered to vote in Orange County. While Asian Americans made up 14% of the county’s voters during that election, they make up 25% or more of those old enough to vote in several legislative districts, including State Assembly Districts 72, 55, and 65, State Senate District 29, and Congressional District 39. Additionally, 29 Asian Americans ran for a political office in the 2012 General Election, including 10 Vietnamese Americans. Countywide, there is still potential for greater Asian American and NHPI civic engagement and political influence.

The report launch was held at CSUF’s Garden Grove Center and was attended by over 100 people, including those from community organizations, the offices of local elected officials, foundations, and businesses. The panel featured Michael Matsuda, Superintendent, Anaheim Union High School District and Trustee, North Orange County Community College District; Tam Nguyen, President/Owner, Advance Beauty College and Immediate Past President, Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce; and Sora Park Tanjasiri, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Health Sciences and Director of the Health Promotion Research Institute, California State University, Fullerton.

Related Materials

Download the full report here

Other reports in the Community of Contrasts series

Media advisory

Press release

Press Coverage:

Population, Poverty Both Grew in This Asian American Community (NBC News)

Orange County home to third-largest Asian American population in U.S. (Los Angeles Times)

O.C. now has third-largest Asian American population in nation (Los Angeles Times)

Report targets Asian 'model minority' myth (Orange County Register)

Report: As Asian-American population grows in Orange County, so do needs (KPCC)

OC's Asian-American Explosion (KCRW)

Asians, Pacific Islanders fastest growing groups in Orange County (Asian Journal)

OC 아시안 인구 전국 3위 카운티 (Korea Times)


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