Asian American Segregation and Income Inequality in the San Francisco Bay Area

Asian American Segregation and Income Inequality in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Othering and Belonging Institute recently issued an update to their report on segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area using 2020 census data, and the section on the most segregated Asian American neighborhoods caught my eye.  Some of the poorest and historically segregated neighborhoods were on that list, such as urban areas in and around San Francisco Chinatown and Oakland’s Chinatown – not a surprise.  But other areas on the list were in Fremont in some very high income areas in surburbs! This disparity outlines the fact that of all US ethnic groups, Asian Americans have the highest income inequality.

You might be wondering why more heavily Asian Bay Area cities, including a number of Asian majority cities like Milpitas, Union City, or Daly City aren’t on this list.  The metric that this table uses is called divergence (explained here as one of many possible segregation metrics).  Divergence measures segregation in one area compared to a greater area which contains it.  For example, heavily Asian city of Cupertino (68% Asian ) would not seem as segregated using this metric since it is part of heavily Asian Santa Clara county (39% Asian).

The report mentions how zoning regulations have been used to enforce segregation, and those in Fremont, Asian American’s have been affecting by zoning regulations, as documented in Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia.   Despite that, Asian American in Fremont have managed to get a strong foothold in those areas to the point where it is an Asian American majority city.

Ironicially, the zoning manipulations used by predominantly white areas to promote segregation are being used by some heavily Asian American high income cities.  Cupertino has a reputation for restricting housing supply.  The city has joined a group of cities challenging a California housing law that tries to get cities to build more affordable housing.  I think that really demonstrates the differences in Asian American income – while some Asian American seniors are riding busses for money, others Asian Americans are working to block affordable housing.



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