A Patchwork of Ethnicity : Decade Sees Large Increase in Foreign-Born Population in Many Cities

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A new wealth of data emerging about the San Gabriel Valley indicates that the vast swath of land from Pasadena to Pomona and Bradbury to El Monte has grown more crowded and its residents younger, richer, more educated, less white and more likely to be born in another country. A year and a half after the initial population findings from the 1990 Census were released, demographers now are scrutinizing the secondary information: income, education, types of households, length of residency, homelessness.

Many of the census trends in the San Gabriel Valley are mirrored throughout California. Of 34 San Gabriel Valley cities and unincorporated communities studied, 13 have Anglo majorities, 11 have Hispanic majorities and one--Monterey Park--has an Asian majority. The other cities are ethnic patchworks where no single group dominates.

Census data indicate that during the ‘80s, Anglos moved out of the western San Gabriel Valley and into planned communities in the eastern valley, such as Diamond Bar and Walnut. Asian populations also surged in those cities, as well as in prosperous and suburban Hacienda Heights.


Walnut, one of the biggest boom towns in the state, grew a stunning 133%, followed by neighboring Diamond Bar, which grew 91.4%. Populations were up almost everywhere except in the business-dominated City of Industry, which lost 5% of its people, and tiny Bradbury, which lost 2% of its population--or 17 of its 846 residents.

Incomes rose throughout the San Gabriel Valley, although not uniformly. As of 1990, Bradbury was the most affluent city, with a median household income of $105,178, followed by San Marino, with $100,077. The next richest cities are Walnut, $64,333, and Diamond Bar, $60,651.

Conversely, the poorest city was South El Monte, with a median household income of $27,074, followed by El Monte with $28,034 and Rosemead, $29,770. Bradbury’s wealth was up 63%, but El Monte’s median household income increased by only 21%. The poverty level for a family of four was $12,674 in 1990, according to the U.S. government.

In many cases, income levels corresponded to education levels. South El Monte and El Monte are the poorest cities in the San Gabriel Valley and they also have the lowest percentage of residents with graduate or professional degrees--1.9% and 1.7% respectively.

Meanwhile, San Marino had the highest percentage of residents with graduate or professional degrees. Not surprisingly, Claremont, home to the six prestigious Claremont Colleges, has the second highest number of residents with advanced degrees. Other erudite cities: Bradbury, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

More San Gabriel Valley residents went off to college in the 1980s, and many cities posted healthy increases in the number of bachelor’s degrees. Among the cities with the highest gains were Irwindale with 217%, Walnut with 154%, Rowland Heights with 141%, Diamond Bar with 113% and Covina with 103%.


By 1990, many cities had large foreign-born populations, including Rosemead, El Monte, Alhambra and Monterey Park, where about half the residents were born outside the United States. In many cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley, half of the foreign-born residents have arrived since 1980.

Asians continued to settle in great numbers throughout the San Gabriel Valley, as diverse in background as the wealthy Hong Kong native fleeing Communism, the middle-class Korean businesswoman and the penniless Vietnamese refuge who brought only his industriousness.

They came to well-entrenched Asian suburbs such as Monterey Park--now 56% Asian--as well as new planned communities such as Walnut--36.3% Asian as of 1990. Meanwhile, the last decade saw a decrease of 49.8% in Monterey Park’s black population and 47.4% for Anglos.

Other communities where Asians make up 30% to 40% of the total population are Alhambra, Rosemead, South San Gabriel, San Marino and San Gabriel. There are no comparable figures from the 1980 census because Asians weren’t counted separately then. In the 1990s, demographers say, the economic power of Asians in the San Gabriel Valley has started translating into political power. Judy Chu, a former mayor of Monterey Park and Norman Hsu, who last year won election to the 22,000-student Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board, are but two examples of this trend.

Don T. Nakanishi, an associate professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, says reapportionment and political representation will become increasingly important to Asians this decade, especially in areas such as the West San Gabriel Valley.

Latino populations--which the U.S. Census identified as ethnic Hispanic--were up in almost every San Gabriel Valley city. The exception was Monterey Park, which actually saw a decrease of 2,048, or 9.7%, in its Latino population.


The biggest percentage gains for Latinos were in Walnut, which showed a 167% gain; Covina, 158%; Pomona, 139%; Diamond Bar, 132%, and Glendora, 108%.

In Pomona, Latinos are now the majority, claiming 51.3% of the city’s 131,732 people, followed by Anglos with 28.2% and blacks with 13.7%.

The last decade also brought a small increase in the African-American populations of many San Gabriel Valley cities, although the percentage increases were high.

For instance, Walnut saw a hefty 279% growth in black residents, but the actual numbers went from 489 blacks in 1980 to 1,855 blacks in 1990. In general, blacks remained concentrated in large enclaves in Pomona, Altadena and Pasadena, none of which showed significant changes.

An increasing number of households were headed by women in 1990, jumping 238% in Walnut, 159% in Diamond Bar, 96% in South San Gabriel, 75% in San Dimas and 63% in Hacienda Heights.

Non-traditional family households such as those made up of friends, roommates or homosexual couples also are on the rise, jumping as much as 300% in some San Gabriel Valley cities.


The number of homeless--almost hidden 12 years ago and not even included in the 1980 count--was 1,156 people by 1990, and many experts think that figure drastically understates the real number. Cities such as West Covina, Monrovia and Glendora logged no homeless people at all, but activists and civic leaders believe they simply weren’t counted.

Pasadena, which found 234 homeless people in its 1990 census, staged a recount in September that found hundreds more, although officials won’t release actual numbers until later this month. Pasadena officials attribute their count to their policy of hiring homeless people to help locate and count those in out-of-the-way places such as freeway bushes or abandoned houses.

The newest cities have the fewest elderly: 3.7% of Walnut’s and 4.2% of Diamond Bar’s population is 65 or over. Cities with the most people over 65: Arcadia, 16.2%; San Marino, 15.5%; Sierra Madre, 15.1%; Temple City, 15%, and City of Industry, 14.5%.

The graying of these cities means an increasing demand for health care and community services such as Dial-A-Ride and senior centers.

At the South Pasadena Senior Citizen’s Center, for instance, up to 60 people crowd into the elegant, Spanish-style adobe building for $1.50 daily lunches and weekly bingo games.

In that city, many come as much for the socializing as for the food, but in much poorer El Monte, officials who run emergency services programs say they get daily calls from impoverished elderly residents who have become homeless or need food.


Lillian Rey, who runs the El Monte/South El Monte Emergency Services Assn., says requests for “Meals on Wheels” have exploded. Some elderly people require special low-salt or low-cholesterol diets, which are not always available through state and federally funded food programs, El Monte officials say.

Andrew Scharlach, who runs the gerontology program at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, says cities and private businesses need to become more aware of elder care needs and offer referrals to services that are available.

Scharlach says such services “are few and far between, and they don’t go far enough in educating people about services in their own communities.”

In many of the poorer cities, more than a quarter of the population is under 14. Children comprise 27.7% of Baldwin Park, 27.3% of El Monte, 27% of Pomona, 26.3% of Valinda, 25.8% of Irwindale and 25.4% of La Puente.

In some of these cities, officials are straining to provide health care and social services. At the El Monte City School District, officials say school nurses often provide the only medical care for poor students, some of whom have never been to a doctor.

But this year, budget cuts forced El Monte to slash its school nurse program, despite the fact that nurses are treating more children than ever before.


“Times are tough, and they need our assistance,” said a frustrated Jeff Seymour, El Monte City Schools superintendent. “There’s a certain level of minimum care that we have to supply, otherwise this is going to be a lousy place to live.”

Education Levels

A breakdown of education levels of adults 25 and older in the San Gabriel Valley. Cities and the adult population over 25 are listed. Numbers in parentheses indicate the percentage change since 1980. (This graphic does not include figures for residents who have some high school education but no diploma, those with some college but no diploma and those with only associate in arts degrees.)

H.S. GRADS GRADUATE OR LESS THAN (INCLUDING BACHELORS PROFESSIONAL CITY 9TH GRADE EQUIVALENCY) DEGREE DEGREE Alhambra 7,807 11,117 8,107 4,179 53,604 (+15.9%) (-13.0%) (+5.4%) N/A Altadena 1,872 5,018 5,353 4,049 28,245 (-3.3) (-24.4) (-16.0) N/A Arcadia 1,576 7,151 7,805 4,424 33,602 (-14.9) (-23.7) (-9.8) N/A Azusa 4,209 5,235 1,901 862 22,765 (+17.0) (+2.0) (+47.7) N/A Baldwin Park 9,671 7,701 2,629 805 35,487 (+33.9) (+0.6) (+68.3) N/A Bradbury 14 86 111 116 540 (-39.1) (-44.9) (-46.6) N/A Claremont 380 2,715 4,850 5,188 19,612 (-39.9) (-30.6) (-36.3) N/A Covina 1,490 8,009 2,944 1,558 27,499 (-14.4) (+7.0) (-7.7) N/A Diamond Bar 873 5,622 8,587 3,729 33,272 (+59.9) (+15.6) (+112.7) N/A Duarte 1,572 2,795 2,027 887 13,053 (-3.8) (-13.0) (+45.8) N/A El Monte 17,403 11,093 2,355 924 54,601 (+38.1) (-2.4) (+28.2) N/A Glendora 1,384 7,471 4,722 2,135 30,937 (-37.3) (-5.8) (+19.6) N/A Hacienda Heights 2,225 7,676 6,022 3,292 32,733 (+2.6) (-13.3) (-6.7) N/A Industry 212 85 19 6 437 (+45.2) (-48.8) (+58.3) N/A Irwindale 165 130 19 5 560 (-30.1) (+7.4) (+216.7) N/A La Puente 4,598 5,056 1,103 384 19,946 (+28.0) (-0.9) (+77.3) N/A La Verne 919 4,657 3,823 1,534 19,734 (-36.9) (+0.8) (+28.2) N/A Monrovia 2,131 5,353 3,080 1,379 22,608 (-14.4) (-12.1) (+9.6) N/A Monterey Park 6,521 8,917 6,237 2,763 40,156 (+35.0) (-10.3) (-10.4) N/A Pasadena 10,034 13,462 18,684 13,312 88,247 (-0.5) (-26.6) (-15.4) N/A Pomona 15,420 14,293 6,152 3,197 71,180 (+57.2) (-5.4) (+19.7) N/A Rosemead 7,760 6,557 2,231 739 29,807 (+32.2) (-6.5) (+13.9) N/A Rowland Heights 1,772 6,200 5,001 1,765 25,796 (+36.1) (+9.7) (+141.2) N/A San Dimas 851 4,597 3,752 1,806 20,803 (-14.5) (-5.2) (+30.7) N/A San Gabriel 3,557 5,266 3,625 1,585 23,913 (+1.0) (-12.7) (+20.4) N/A San Marino 130 718 2,760 2,529 8,600 (-18.2) (-40.0) (-45.8) N/A Sierra Madre 228 1,272 1,858 1,330 7,987 (-50.4) (-28.7) (-27.8) N/A South El Monte 4,115 2,042 247 126 10,538 (+20.0) (+1.2) (+32.1) N/A South Pasadena 660 2,151 4,972 3,353 17,005 (-22.3) (-41.6) (-18.2) N/A S. San Gabriel 856 1,095 509 153 4,730 (+23.2) (+29.1) (+48.8) N/A Temple City 1,290 5,691 3,239 1,286 20,649 (-31.8) (-20.3) (+33.7) N/A Valinda 1,458 3,258 770 303 10,420 (+20.6) (-13.6) (-13.2) N/A Walnut 814 3,007 4,116 1,804 16,854 (+213.1) (+45.2) (+153.9) N/A West Covina 3,862 15,428 8,613 3,267 58,806 (+16.8) (-9.4) (+2.4) N/A

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Compiled by Richard O’Reilly, director of computer analysis, and Maureen Lyons, statistical analyst, of The Times.