Census Shows High Desert a New Melting Pot : Population: Palmdale was one of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S. The increase of Asians, blacks and Hispanics outpaced the city’s rate.


The ethnic minority populations of the Antelope Valley grew as much as 19 times larger during the 1980s, helping convert the once mostly Anglo communities of the desert into increasingly heterogeneous suburbs.

Palmdale, for example, was one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation during the 1980s. But the black population still grew twice as fast as the city as a whole, the Hispanic population increased three times as fast and the Asian population more than four times as fast.

Similar population trends occurred in Lancaster, just north of Palmdale, replicating patterns seen in other counties and distant suburbs ringing Los Angeles, according to U.S. Census data released this week.

“All of this shows this general process of decentralization that has been going on for decades . . . and it looks like in the 1980s, racial minorities were able to participate in this process at a rate greater than before,” said James Paul Allen, a population expert at Cal State Northridge.


Much of the growth in suburban minority populations occurred as a result of immigration, but some of it came about as urban dwellers went in search of affordable housing and an escape from crime, violence and the other ills of the city. New houses in the vast housing tracts of the Antelope Valley routinely sell for half to a third as much as comparable houses in the San Fernando Valley.

“Most Americans feel that owning a home gives you a bigger stake in the neighborhood . . . and brings out some of the best qualities in people,” Allen said. “It’s a very encouraging thing that so many minority people have been able to move into these distant suburbs.”

Despite the astronomical rates of increase, the number of individuals involved in some cases remained quite small and submerged in the larger Anglo community. The Asian population in Palmdale increased 1,820% during the 1980s, but only 2,880--or 4%--of Palmdale’s 1990 population of 68,842 was Asian.

George Fong, owner of two Chinese restaurants in Palmdale, said that when he moved there in 1984 he knew of only a handful of other residents of Chinese descent. Now, he said, the Chinese community probably numbers between 400 and 500 and meets once a month for a well-attended religious service and potluck meal. Still, virtually all of his customers are Anglo.


Mike Kirkland, vice president of the regional National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said the black population in the Antelope Valley is dispersed. Blacks number about 4,200 in Palmdale and 6,990 in Lancaster, and represent 6% of Palmdale’s population and 7% of Lancaster’s.

“We’re everywhere up here and that is one of the reasons you don’t get a sense of the community that you would in other parts of the county,” said Kirkland, a video tape sales representative who moved to Lancaster from Los Angeles in 1987.

“In virtually every block in the Antelope Valley you’re likely to find diverse ethnicity.”

Kirkland said many blacks in the area are professionals who can afford to buy houses in any neighborhood. Still, he said, racial tensions exist. “We’re naive if we think that any community can escape the social ills,” he said.


Harold Medina, a spokesman for the Antelope Valley office of the United Way, said that even if the numbers of some minority groups remain small, their need for services is increasing. He said the organization is conducting research to determine what those needs are and is encouraging the agencies that receive funding to make sure all segments of the population are represented.

“The minority community is growing . . . and that’s why we are identifying it and making people aware that services are available to them,” he said.

The black populations of closer-in cities such as Burbank and Glendale also grew dramatically during the 1980s, but remained minuscule proportionally. A far more significant development in those cities was the growth in their Hispanic populations.

In the 1990 census, the term Hispanic--as opposed to Latino--is used to describe people of Spanish and Latin American origin. They may be of any race. The term Anglo refers to non-Hispanic whites.


The Hispanic population of Glendale grew by 53% during the 1980s, nearly double the 29% growth rate for the city as a whole. Burbank’s Hispanic population grew by 54%, or five times the city’s rate of growth.

The minority populations of Santa Clarita also increased faster than the general population, although the proportions remained smaller than the figures for the county as a whole.

The Hispanic population of Los Angeles County grew by 62% during the 1980s to reach 38% of the general population. The black population countywide grew by 5%, although it dropped by 3% in the city of Los Angeles. The Asian population of the county grew by 119%.



Chart shows the latest U.S. Census figures on the racial/ethnic population breakdown in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys compared with 1980. In the data, the U.S. Census makes a distinction between racial groups and ethnic groups. All categories except “Hispanic” are considered racial groups. The “Hispanic” category is considered an ethnic group and includes Hispanics of all races. All of the groups together represent the total population picture.

% chg. % chg. % chg. Name from from from Total 1980 Anglo 1980 Black 1980 Agoura Hills 20,390 na 17,475 na 228 na Burbank 93,643 11 64,453 -4 1,497 280 Glendale 180,038 29 114,765 11 2,065 382 Hidden Hills 1,729 -2 1,543 -6 7 -63 Lancaster 97,291 103 71,215 72 6,990 347 Los Angeles 3,485,398 17 1,299,604 -8 454,289 -8 Palmdale 68,842 461 46,002 344 4,200 940 San Fernando 22,580 27 3,322 -35 206 129 Santa Clarita 110,642 60 89,203 48 1,612 191 Westlake 7,455 29 6,659 20 56 155 Village

% chg. % chg. % chg. Name from American from from Asian 1980 Indian 1980 Other 1980 Agoura Hills 1,377 na 57 na 10 na Burbank 5,979 157 406 na 136 -80 Glendale 24,673 214 473 na 331 -87 Hidden Hills 48 118 4 na 0 -100 Lancaster 3,359 204 756 na 155 -36 Los Angeles 320,668 64 9,774 na 9,652 -72 Palmdale 2,880 1,820 479 na 127 154 San Fernando 232 31 65 na 72 -1 Santa Clarita 4,402 266 502 na 152 -63 Westlake 418 489 9 na 0 -100 Village

% chg. Name from Hispanic 1980 Agoura Hills 1,243 na Burbank 21,172 54 Glendale 37,731 53 Hidden Hills 127 51 Lancaster 14,816 331 Los Angeles 1,391,411 71 Palmdale 15,154 1,221 San Fernando 18,683 53 Santa Clarita 14,771 128 Westlake 313 168 Village


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Credit: Richard O’Reily, director of computer analysis, and Maureen Lyons, statistical analyst