U.S. Department of Commerce

Housing Patterns

Chapter 4

Residential Segregation of Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders: 1980 to 2000

The Asian and Pacific Islander population was the one racial or ethnic group whose composition and count was profoundly affected by the revision of OMB Statistical Directive 15 in 1997. For Census 2000, Asians and Pacific Islanders were divided into two major race groups: 1) Asians, and 2) Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (also referred to as Pacific Islanders). For historical comparability, we focus on results based on the combined group. However, since this change will persist, we also present 2000 statistics for the two new groups separately.

Like American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asians and Pacific Islanders do not constitute a large proportion of the U.S. population, however, like American Indians and Alaska Natives, that proportion is growing. Asians and Pacific Islanders grew from 3.5 million (1.5 percent of the U.S. population) in 1980 to 7.3 million (2.9 percent) in 1990. In Census 2000, there were 11.9 million Asians (4.2 percent of the U.S. population) and nearly 900,000 Pacific Islanders (0.3 percent).(1)

Asians and Pacific Islanders also tended to be concentrated in the West, but they are much more urban than non-Hispanic Whites. Of the Asians and Pacific Islanders population, 92.2 percent were in metropolitan areas in 1980, and increasing to 94.4 percent in 1990. In Census 2000, 95.1 percent of Asians and 83.3 percent of Pacific Islanders lived in metropolitan areas. Therefore, we were able to include substantially more metropolitan areas in our analysis than we could for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

When either all metropolitan areas or selected ones (30 metropolitan areas had at least 3 percent or 20,000 or more Asians and Pacific Islanders) were considered, the dissimilarity, isolation, and spatial proximity indexes indicated increases in the residential segregation of Asians and Pacific Islanders between 1980 and 2000. The delta index indicated no change, and the absolute centralization index showed a small decline (Table 4-1).(2) The increase in isolation over the 1980-2000 period was particularly pronounced. An examination of the full distribution of the indexes for the selected metropolitan areas likewise showed an increase for dissimilarity, spatial proximity, and isolation over much of their range (Figure 4-1(a-e)). There were indications of a small decline in absolute centralization, and a less clear pattern for delta. Figure 4-2 (a-e), which plots 1980 index values versus the 2000 values, further confirmed these patterns.

Nineteen of the 30 selected metropolitan areas were in the West region (Table 4-2). Patterns of change in the West mirrored the summary above, with a few relatively minor differences as compared with the rest of the country. Asians and Pacific Islanders in the West in 2000 were more isolated than Asians and Pacific Islanders in the other regions, a bit less centralized, and lived slightly closer to one another (spatial proximity).

There seemed to be noticeable differences by size of metropolitan area. The isolation index was nearly twice as high for medium-sized areas (500,000 to 999,999) than for larger or smaller areas, though there were only three of them, compared with 20 large areas and 7 small ones. In contrast, three of the five indexes -- delta, absolute centralization, and spatial proximity -- were smallest for the medium-sized areas.

Areas with the smallest proportion (under 1.8 percent) of Asians and Pacific Islanders had, by far, the lowest level of isolation and the lowest level of spatial proximity. Both the isolation and spatial proximity indexes increased monotonically with the percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The other indexes did not seem to display a pattern with respect to the percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders.

In terms of patterns by the rate of growth of the Asian and Pacific Islander population, metropolitan areas with the greatest growth between 1980 and 2000 experienced particularly large increases in isolation, and some increases in dissimilarity and spatial proximity. Those with the lowest rate of growth (under 256.8 percent increase -- still a large rate) experienced more modest changes in segregation over the two decades.

Three of the five indexes -- dissimilarity, isolation, and spatial proximity -- stand out as being most likely to show increases (Table 4-3). In fact, all 30 metropolitan areas had an increase in isolation of more than 5 percent between 1980 and 2000; the delta and absolute centralization indexes showed more decreases than increases.

Table 4-4 shows the index levels for the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country that also have at least 3 percent or 20,000 or more Asians and Pacific Islanders. The five areas with the highest level of dissimilarity (the most commonly used index) were, in order, New York, San Francisco and Houston (tied), Los Angeles-Long Beach, and San Diego. Using all five indexes, the most segregated large areas include four of the same five metro areas, with San Francisco at number one and San Jose moving into the top five and Houston at number six, basically tied with San Jose and Los Angeles. Figure 4-3 (608k) PDF shows the settlement pattern of Asians and Pacific Islanders in 2000 in San Francisco.

The least segregated large areas were, again in order using the dissimilarity index, Portland-Vancouver, Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Nassau-Suffolk, Newark, and Bergen-Passaic. Using all the indexes, the five least segregated large areas were Nassau-Suffolk, Baltimore, Newark, Bergen-Passaic, and Detroit. Figure 4-4 (1.6M) PDF shows the settlement pattern of Asians and Pacific Islanders in 2000 in Nassau-Suffolk.

The large areas with the greatest increase in segregation over the 1980-2000 period include two of the five areas with low overall segregation -- the five with the greatest increases were Riverside-San Bernardino, San Jose, Nassau-Suffolk, Bergen-Passaic, and Portland-Vancouver. The five with the smallest increases (or largest decreases) were Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles-Long Beach (Table 4-5).

Table 4-6 shows segregation statistics separately for Asians and Pacific Islanders in 2000 for all and selected metropolitan areas. Because of the small number of Pacific Islanders, in particular, the selection criteria continue to refer to metropolitan areas with at least 20,000 or 3 percent Asian and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders combined in 1980. As a baseline, the index value for all Asians and Pacific Islanders in 2000 already discussed is presented first, followed by the index value for Asians and then Pacific Islanders.

The dissimilarity index shows only a little difference between the residential segregation levels for the two groups, though Pacific Islanders are more segregated than Asians (using the significance criteria explained in footnote 2). The other indexes suggest, however, that Pacific Islanders are slightly less residentially segregated than Asians.

An examination of the histograms for 2000 (Figure 4-5(a-e)), shows a higher level of residential segregation for Pacific Islanders than for Asians when the dissimilarity index is considered, but a lower level for the other four indexes. This was also very apparent when the scatter diagrams were examined. The dissimilarity index scores were arrayed along the diagonal in Figure 4-6a, but slightly below the diagonal for the delta index (Figure 4-6c), and well below the diagonal for the other three indexes.

In sum, there seems to have been an increase in the residential segregation of Asians and Pacific Islanders over the 1980-2000 period according to three of the five measures, no change in a fourth measure, and a small decline in the fifth. Increases are most notable in the isolation and spatial proximity indexes. The more Asians and Pacific Islanders in an area as a percentage of the population, the more they are isolated, and the more they tend to live with one another. Asians as a group were more segregated in 2000 than were Pacific Islanders.

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1. The 2000 figures includes all people who identified as being of the particular group alone or in combination with another race. The number of people who identified as Asian alone was 10.2 million (3.6 percent of the total U.S. population), and the analogous figure for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders was just under 400 thousand (0.1 percent of the population).

2. Using the approach described in Chapter 2 to determine substantive changes as one percent of the index range over three years, the following critical values are used: dissimilarity, 0.003; isolation, 0.007; delta, 0.004; absolute centralization, 0.006; spatial proximity, 0.002.

Chapter 4:
Go to Chapter 5: Residential Segregation of Blacks or African Americans
Go to "Racial and Ethnic Residential Segregation in the United States: 1980-2000" in HTML format
Contact the Census Call Center Staff at 1-800-923-8282 (toll free) or visit ask.census.gov for further information on Housing Patterns Data.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division
Last Revised: October 31, 2011

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