April 4, 2023
From left, Karin Wang, vice president of programs and communications, Advancing Justice-LA; Mary Anne Foo, executive director, OCAPICA; Dr. Bill Maurer, dean of the School of Social Sciences, UC Irvine; Sylvia Kim, regional director of, Advancing Justice-OC; Laureen Hom, doctoral candidate, UC Irvine, co-author of “Transforming Orange County.” (Contributed photo)

IRVINE, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2018) — Orange County serves as a microcosm of the major demographic shifts taking place across the nation, placing it squarely in the midst of the growing scrutiny on the family-based immigration system. Comprising 21 percent of its 3 million residents, Orange County is home to the third largest Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community in the United States.

From 2000 to 2010, the local Asian American population jumped 41 percent, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders increased by 17 percent, compared to the county’s 6 percent total population growth, making it the fastest-growing population. With 62 percent born outside of the country, AA&NHPIs are also the county’s largest community of recent immigrants.

“Despite these numbers and the rapid growth of the AA&NHPI population, there is little research available that describes the distinct cultures and histories across ethnic groups, their social, political, and economic contributions to the county, or the needs of a population whose majority is immigrants and refugees,” said Dr. Linda Trinh Vo, study co-author and UCI School of Humanities professor of Asian American Studies. “Our most important policy recommendation is the collection and reporting of disaggregated data in order to better understand the nuanced diversity of the AA&NHPI community, because aggregated data conceals disparities affecting specific ethnic groups, especially Southeast Asians and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. We hope this will improve understanding of the specific experiences of AA&NHPI communities and race relations more broadly in Orange County.”

The report, “Transforming Orange County: Assets and Needs of Asian Americans & Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” provides a deeper, more intimate look into the complexity of the AA&NHPI community that belies long-held stereotypes as the “model minority” or “perpetual foreigner”. Through interviews with 20 key community leaders representing different ethnic groups and interests, the report examines the major needs and assets of the AA&NHPI population in six areas: building sustainable communities, economic development and disparities, K-12 and higher education, health care services, political participation and civic engagement, and civil rights advocacy.

“In each chapter, we share key policy recommendations that will further strengthen our community’s assets and better address needs to help promote equity and improve the quality of life for everyone in the county,” says Sylvia Kim, regional director of Advancing Justice-OC. “We hope this report can be a stepping stone for business owners, elected officials, educators, healthcare professionals, and policy makers, to enhance their understanding about the complexity of AA&NHPI communities.”

Additional policy recommendations include providing culturally and linguistically accessible outreach and counseling for each area addressed in the study, and continuing to strengthen AA&NHPI-serving community agencies, cross-ethnic coalitions and organizations that amplify the assets, needs and voices of AA&NHPI community members.

“The idea for this study began in 2016 when Sylvia Kim and I discussed the need for a baseline study of the Orange County AA&NHPI communities and their economic, social and health care needs,” social sciences dean Bill Maurer said. “We enlisted the expertise of sociologist Linda Vo, and she tapped Laureen to assist her. This study is a really terrific example of cross-campus collaboration with the community to address and find solutions for local social issues.”

The authors of Transforming Orange County are Linda Trinh Vo, UCI School of Humanities professor of Asian American Studies and Laureen D. Hom, Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning and Public Policy at the UCI School of Social Ecology. The report was published by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Orange County (Advancing Justice-OC).

With research support from the UCI schools of social sciences, humanities and social ecology, funding for the report came from the Long Family Foundation, the Kay Family Foundation, Wells Fargo and St. Joseph Hospital.

An executive summary of the report, including downloadable chapters, is available at: transformingoc.advancingjustice-oc.org.

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