Minority Influx to Have Major Impact on County, Study Says

Times County Bureau Chief

Demand for inexpensive but larger apartments, public transit and bilingual education will soar in Orange County by the year 2000 as the county joins Los Angeles as a key U.S. destination of minority groups and foreign immigrants, according to a new population study.

The minority population grew three times faster than the number of whites in Orange County between 1970 and 1980, according to the study by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency.

Researchers and political experts say there will have to be major changes in education, employment opportunities, housing availability, transportation and public policy-making if the trend continues.

"There will certainly be more school-age children and increased public transit ridership levels," said William F. Gayk, analyst at the county administrative office in Santa Ana. "But we have to see how these trends materialize. A lot depends on the future of the economy.

"A lot also depends on other forces that drive immigration, such as the political situation in other countries, even the famine in Ethiopia. Most of the immigrants are now coming from Third World countries experiencing political and economic upheaval, not the middle-class countries of Western Europe."

Orange County was a predominantly white, middle-class suburb in the 1960s and 1970s, but it has evolved into a place where work rather than housing draws people," said Mark Baldassare, associate professor of social ecology at UC Irvine, commenting on the findings.

"The high percentage increases in ethnicity reflect a changing social structure in the county," added Baldassare, who did not participate in the study. "Politically, no one really has a clue" as to what that will lead to, he said.

Among the findings of the study, titled "Southern California: A Region in Transition:"

The county's total population grew 35% between 1970 and 1980. The white population increased 19%, but the number of Asians grew 371%, Hispanics 145% and blacks 140% during the decade.

- A far greater percent of immigrants settling in Orange County were Asian (43%) than in other areas. For example, only 30% of immigrants in Los Angeles County were Asian.

- Although ethnic immigrant groups tend to use public transit and other public services more than others, their dependence on public assistance payments and public health care is about the same as for long-term residents and people who come to Southern California from other states. Indeed, the study concludes that county government is experiencing an increased financial burden for such health care not because of increased ethnic populations but because the federal government is not picking up its share of the cost.

- Orange County has about 11% of the households regionally, but it received 34.7% of the Hispanic immigrants to Southern California and 21.7% of the whites between 1975 and 1980. Los Angeles County received 43.7% of the Hispanic immigrants and 23.8% of the whites.

- Although 85% of the people arriving in Orange County from elsewhere in the United States are white, the reverse is true for foreign immigrants. About 9,240 whites arrived in Orange County from other countries between 1975 and 1980 out of a total of 63,720 immigrants. About 202,880 whites came into the county from other parts of the United States out of a total U.S. migration to the county of 240,520.

"Contrary to the Los Angeles phenomenon, Orange County had more entering than leaving for all ethnic groups during this period (1975-1980)." About 90% of the 240,520 U.S. migration to Orange County came from Los Angeles County.

- Ethnic group participation rates in the labor force are higher for Orange County than in the rest of the region.

Referring to education, the three-volume SCAG report states:

"The inflow of immigrant children into schools, and the increasing ethnic diversity within schools, offers the opportunity for schools to become the arena for cultural enrichment, exchange and tolerance among the region's younger population. It also represents a major challenge for schools to provide an environment that lessens frictions that often occur between various ethnic groups."

A large percentage of the school-age children of immigrants do not speak English, and the SCAG researchers predict there will be increased pressure on school administrators to provide bilingual instruction.

Larger Households

The report also states that "recent immigrant households tend to be larger . . . . The need for larger dwelling units is counter to recent trends which have down-sized units to cut costs and make housing affordable for today's predominantly smaller households. A housing issue for policy-makers may be how to expand housing unit sizes to accommodate larger minority households . . . . The need for larger dwelling units at affordable prices may also suggest the need for greater emphasis on rehabilitation of older existing housing stock and less emphasis on new construction."

Increased Demands

"Over 18% of recent immigrant workers use (public) transit as a primary means of commuting to work, compared with 4.5% of all non-immigrants," the study adds. "Demand for transit services is expected to increase over the next 20 years as the region grows by 3 million people and as roadways become more congested by automobiles . . . . Immigration scenarios could influence the size of this increase . . . ."

Baldassare said that Orange County is experiencing the "Pacific Rim" phenomenon, in which coastal metropolitan areas on both sides of the Pacific Ocean have become focal points of economic and trade activity.

Enclaves, Not Ghettoes

"Job opportunities offset concerns about housing," Baldassare said. "I see ethnic enclaves developing in Orange County. Not ghettos, but areas where there is a mixture of middle class and low income ethnic groups. They will replace the white middle class in central areas of the county.

"There are so many cultural differences between these immigrants and those of previous generations that it is impossible to predict how they will participate in the political process."

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