2008 Indicators Report - The New Demography

The New Demography

The Bay Area often believes itself to be a multicultural paradise – and in many ways it is, particularly in the fluidity of inter-group relations, the vibrant stew of youth culture, and the rich appreciation of immigrant cultures.  But the Bay Area is actually whiter than the rest of California, having become a majority-minority region years after Southern California crossed that threshold.   Still, the Bay is generally like California as a whole – it is becoming more diverse, with the exception of San Francisco.

The Bay Area is also relatively segregated:  while the typical measures of racial segregation have been declining in most metropolitan areas in the U.S., the relative segregation of whites increased slightly in the Bay Area between 1980 and 2008.  On the other hand, the segregation of Blacks and Latinos has declined sharply as they find themselves sharing common, and often distressed, turf (Figure 1).  The result has been sometimes uneasy – but the possibility for alliance around common issues is striking.

Figure 1. Change in Black-Latino Segregation by Sub-Region in the Bay Area, 1980-2008.

Geography has mattered in other ways as well.  Defying both regional and state trends, San Francisco is now actually whiter than it was in 2000, reflecting the influx of young professionals (and increasingly including their children – the share of children that are white in San Francisco jumped from 24 percent to 32 percent just between 2000 and 2007).  The pattern is not just racial but economic: in the last five years only 9 percent of those relocating to or within in the Bay Area made over $150,000 as compared to a full 21 percent of those who moved into San Francisco, specifically (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Household Income Distribution of Households that Moved in within the last 4-5 Years in San Francisco (2007 dollars), 1990-2007.


So home prices and rent in these urban core areas have jumped.  The resulting pressure has been particularly acute for low-income African Americans.  Blacks have been streaming out of the Bay Area for a while (to places like Sacramento and Stockton), but between 1990 and 2007, the black share of the population dropped by nearly 6 percent in San Francisco and 3 percent in the East Bay, outpacing the 2 percent decline for the Bay as a whole. And the decline for black kids was even sharper: while 20 percent of San Francisco’s youth in 1990, they were only 9 percent in 2007. Only places like Vallejo and Napa in the North Bay have seen growth in African Americans (Map 1).  

Map 1. Percent Non-Hispanic Black in the Bay Area, 1990 and 2008.

  a. 1990                                                                    b. 2008

Latinos and Asians have spread throughout the region, but with slightly different patterns, a fact that has increased their regional segregation index. Between 1990 and 2008, both groups raised their numbers in the Bay; Asian/ Pacific Islander immigrants are in greater number in the Bay Area than anywhere else in the state. They have tended to see their numbers increase in the more urban areas while Latinos saw increases in rural areas as well.  

And their children will shape our future:  31 percent of those under 18 in the Bay Area are Latino and 20 percent are Asian. Seven percent of youth are mixed race – higher than in California as a whole and reflective of the Bay’s characteristic openness– while African Americans comprise 7 percent and whites 35 percent.  

And while that might lead to a celebration of our diverse future, there are reasons for concern.  In particular, both Latinos and African Americans face the challenge of undereducation:  less than half of college-age Latinos (37 percent) and African Americans (48 percent) are in school compared to over half of whites (56 percent) and Asians (69 percent) (Figure 3).  

Figure 3. Percent of the 18-24 year old Population Enrolled in School by Race/Ethnicity, 1990-2007.

The contradictions of gentrification and the lack of workforce preparation suggest that the prized diversity of the Bay Area could be lost to economic pressures.  This would seem to call for public leadership – and there are many valiant efforts and many individuals of good will.  Unfortunately, our elected leaders do not always reflect their constituency.   A particular challenge in voicing these concerns and developing appropriate policy: the city councils in the region are often less diverse than the communities of color they represent.

So there you have it: an ethnic mix without that much mixing, a set of gentrification pressures forcing many African American families out of San Francisco and the East Bay, a startling gap in school enrollment and workforce preparation for young adults, and a political system that has a long way to go in having its diversity match its residents.  If the Bay Area wants to make sure that our multicultural milieu continues to work for the region rather than against it, we will need to come up with ways to retain long-time residents, integrate new immigrants, train our youth, and prepare new leadership.