The Japanese American community is aging and becoming more multiracial, and those who are foreign-born still make up a significant portion of the population.
These and other findings based on U.S. Census data were presented by Melany De La Cruz, assistant director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and head of the Asian Pacific American Community Development Data Center, during the “State of Japanese America” conference held July 9 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.
The study was requested by the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council, which co-presented the conference with the JACL, and underwritten by Union Bank. De La Cruz spoke during the morning session to provide a framework for panel discussions held throughout the day. Members of the local Nikkei community attended along with participants in the JACL National Convention.
Alan Nishio of CJACLC, coordinator of the conference, said that the report provides “a snapshot of the Japanese American community looking toward the next decade.”
Following are some of the findings:
AGING POPULATION: The Japanese American population has increasingly aged over the past decade, with a higher proportion of people over 65 than the general population — 15 percent for Japanese Americans, 13 percent for all Americans; in California, 17 percent and 11 percent; and in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, 18 percent and 11 percent. The San Francisco metropolitan area was an exception with 13 percent for both.
In both California and Los Angeles, Japanese Americans in the 55-to-64 and the 65-and-over age groups have higher percentages than the total population. The trends for Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas also illustrate that in the next decade, on average, 11 to 12 percent of the Japanese American population in the 55-to-64 age group is nearing retirement age.
The median age of Japanese Americans rose from 36.3 in 2000 to 38.2 in 2008, compared to 35.4 and 36.8 in the total population. Other figures for Japanese Americans and the total population in 2009: 39.5 and 34.9 in California, 40.7 and 34.6 in Riverside/Orange County, 39.2 and 38.2 in San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose.
At the same time, “I think there’s still much of the mid-aged population that’s still able to contribute and be engaged in the community,” De La Cruz said.
MORE MULTIRACIAL: Among Japanese Americans, those who only identified themselves as Japanese numbered 795,000 in 2000 and 767,000 in 2009, a decrease of 4 percent. Those who marked more than one race/ethnicity made up 1.2 million in 2000 and 1.3 million in 2009, an increase of 9 percent.
In California, the single-race numbers were 289,000 in 2000 and 279,000 in 2009, a decrease of 4 percent; the multiple-race numbers were 395,000 in 2000 and 421,000 in 2009, an increase of 6 percent.
In the Los Angeles metro area, the single-race numbers were 137,000 in 2000 and 129,000 in 2009, a decrease of 5 percent; the multiple-race numbers were 172,000 in 2000 and 183,000 in 2009, an increase of 6 percent.
In the San Francisco metropolitan area, the single-race numbers were 35,000 in 2000 and 34,000 in 2009, a decrease of 4 percent; the multiple-race numbers were 49,000 in 2000 and 65,000 in 2009, an increase of 34 percent.
“I think what this demonstrates is that the multiracial populations are the ones that are actually contributing to the growth of the Japanese American population,” said De La Cruz. “So it’s not that Japanese American populations are no longer growing, but that Japanese Americans are becoming more multiracial.”
TREND TOWARD DISPERSAL: The number of Japanese Americans living in traditional areas identified as Japanese American population centers is not growing.
Japanese Americans, who are the sixth-largest Asian ethnic group (1.3 million) in the U.S. after Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Vietnamese and Koreans, are most numerous in five states: California, where they are the sixth-largest Asian group (289,000); Hawaii, where they are the largest Asian group (188,000); New York and Washington, where they are the sixth-largest Asian group (38,445 and 37,116, respectively) and Illinois, where they are the seventh-largest Asian group (19,327).
The five states with the largest growing Asian populations from 2000 were Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, New Hampshire and North Dakota. In Nevada, the growth is driven by people of Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese ancestry.
“Perhaps there is something to say about Japanese Americans moving to non-traditional gateway states like Nevada because of retirement, a different quality of life,” said De L Cruz.
BORN OUTSIDE THE U.S.: The Japanese American population is mostly native-born — 73 percent in the U.S., 73 percent in California, 72 percent in Los Angeles, 71 percent in San Francisco. However, the percentage of foreign-born Japanese (27 percent) is higher than the national average of foreign-born for the total population (13 percent).
An analysis of the top states where Japanese Americans are concentrated shows that the majority in New York are immigrants (64 percent), followed by Illinois (30 percent), Washington (23 percent), and Hawaii (9 percent).
“Here in California, L.A. and San Francisco, this tends to be where native-born Japanese Americans reside, but in states that are growing, like New York and Washington and Illinois, the populations there tend to be more foreign-born,” said De La Cruz. “I think that these immigration trends hold important implications for both policy and politics. Community leader face increasing demands for services relevant to a wide array of new populations, particularly those with different economic circumstances and cultural/linguistic backgrounds.”
Among foreign-born Japanese, 32 percent are naturalized U.S. citizens and 68 percent are not citizens; for California, the figures are 38 percent and 62 percent. De La Cruz called for more research on the rates of naturalization of Japanese Americans, particularly beyond California. “We need to think about who’s eligible to vote and address the issues that are facing the Japanese American community.”
EDUCATION AND INCOME: Japanese Americans still have above-average education and income levels compared to the general population, but this trend has leveled or is decreasing in relation to other Asian ethnic groups.
Japanese Americans continue to be above the average in terms of college degrees, with 31 percent earning a bachelor’s and 15 percent earning a graduate degree. However, Asian Indians and Taiwanese have the highest proportions of bachelor’s and graduate degrees among Asian groups, with 73 percent of Taiwanese and 69 percent of Asian Indians earning a bachelor’s degree or higher. Hmong, Cambodians, and Laotians have the lowest educational attainment; 37 to 39 percent have less than a high school diploma.
In California, 34 percent of Japanese Americans earned bachelor’s degrees and 15 percent graduate degrees. Asian Indians and Taiwanese have the highest proportions of among Asian groups, with 70 percent of Taiwanese and 67 percent of Asian Indians earning a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The trend continues in Los Angeles, where the figures for Japanese Americans are 35 percent (bachelor’s) and 14 percent (graduate), compared to 67 percent (bachelor’s or higher) for Taiwanese and 71 percent (bachelor’s or higher) for Asian Indians. In San Francisco, the figures are 40 percent (bachelor’s) and 18 percent (graduate) for Japanese Americans, while 63 percent of Koreans and 72 percent of Asian Indians had a bachelor’s or higher.
Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans are concentrated in housing markets where the cost of living is more expensive, and their median household incomes tend to be higher. Japanese Americans have higher median household and per capita incomes in comparison to the total population ($65,767 and $31,831 vs. $51,369 and $27,100), but among Asian groups, Asian Indians ($86,660) and Taiwanese ($80,649) have the highest income levels.
In California, Japanese Americans have a median household income of $71,245 and per capita income of $35,219, compared to $60,422 and $28,990 for the total population. Japanese Americans also have the lowest average household size, 2.4 in the U.S. and 2.36 in California.
De La Cruz emphasized that Asian Americans are not monolithic, and that trends are complex rather than obvious. “We really need to dig deeper in our analysis and look at what’s really going on with the different populations.”
Learning how their status different from or similar to other Asian groups will help Japanese Americans to work better with those groups as Asian Americans seek to partner with the public and private sector to bring about social and economic change, she said.
“One of the shortcomings of quantitative analysis is … there is very little attempt made to go beyond the collected data by drawing from other sources (such as) community leaders in order to offer fuller, more nuanced explanations,” De La Cruz added. “I look forward to strengthening our partnerships in the next decade.”