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Contribution to Book
From Central Cities to Ethnoburbs: Asian American Political Incorporation in the San Francisco Bay Area
Ethnic Studies
  • James Lai, Santa Clara University
Document Type
Book Chapter
Publication Date
Praeger / ABC-CLIO

Asian Americans are increasingly more active and visible in local politics, extending beyond central city limits. While central cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, and New York City remain vibrant 21st-century gateways for contemporary Asian immigrants and community formation, a majority of the U.S. Asian American population currently resides in suburban cities. Between 2000 and 2010, Asian American population growth in the suburbs reached 1.7 million, which was nearly four times the growth during the same period for those Asian Americans living in central cities. 1 Approximately 62 percent of the U.S. Asian American population is situated in the suburbs compared to 59 percent for Latinas/os, 51 percent for African Americans, and 78 percent for whites.2 Variations of suburban settlement exist among Asian ethnic groups with Asian Indians being the most likely to live in the suburbs at 56 percent followed by Filipinos (54%), Koreans (54%), Japanese (52%), Vietnamese (50%), and Chinese (45%).3

In 2010, the national Asian American population reached 17.9 million in 2010, an increase of 250 percent from 1990.4 California and New York remain the two most prominent states with Asian American populations at 32 percent and 9 percent of the national Asian American population, respectively. Each of these states contains different variations of Asian ethnic populations. In California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles metro area contain the most diverse Asian ethnic groups among central cities in the state with significantly large numbers of Filipinos (27%), Chinese (26%), Asian Indians (11 %), Japanese (9%), and Koreans (8%).5 In New York, New York City's Asian American population is tilted toward Chinese (39%) and Asian Indians (23%).6 While California and New York are major destination states, they are by no means alone. Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Georgia each witnessed their respective Asian American populations' growth between 80 and 116 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Nearly 3.9 million Asian Americans, or 3 percent of the electorate, voted in the 2012 elections. This represented an increase of 547,000 voters from 2008.7 The impact of the growing Asian American voter base in the suburbs of battleground states was witnessed during the 2012 U.S. presidential election. For example, in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, outside of Richmond, the Asian American population has doubled during the past decade, according to the 2010 U.S. census. These Asian-influenced suburbs were the focus of both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in their efforts to sway potential Asian American swing voters. According to Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member and an outspoken evangelist about the importance of the Asian American vote for his party: "We've got to get communicating (with Asian American voters). We've got to get on it, and we're running out of time." 8 Both political parties are likely to contend for Asian American voters in key battleground states such as Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Florida.

Chapter of
Minority Voting in the United States
Kyle L. Kreider
Thomas J.Baldino

Minority Voting in the United States by Kyle L. Kreider and Thomas J. Baldino, editors. Copyright © 2016 by Kyle L. Kreider and Thomas J. Baldino. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

Citation Information
Lai, James S. 2015. “From Central Cities to Ethnoburbs: Asian American Political Incorporation in the San Francisco Bay Area.” In Minority Voting in the United States, eds. Kyle L. Kreider and Thomas J. Baldino. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Press.