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Filipinos are the Minority in Historic Filipinotown and L.A.'s Japanese Population in Steady Decline

In Historic Filipinotown, Filipinos are the minority. Among the population of 25,000, 60 percent are Latino, and only 25 percent are Filipino-Americans. That's according to Dennis Arguelles, director of program development of the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, who presented these numbers at the forum "The Power of Place; Asian American Neighborhoods, Politics & Activism Today" in April, as reported by The FilAm.

It's an interesting statistic that brings to light the shifting demographics of L.A. and its ethnic enclaves, which historically have been home to a population of its namesake. But when you look at these neighborhoods today, many of them exist more as a symbolic and cultural center, with its population not necessarily reflecting the historic characteristics.

According to 2010 Census data, Asian are the fastest-growing population among ethnic groups in the nation. In L.A. county the Asian population saw an increase from 1.15 million in 2000 to 1.35 million in 2010, and Chinese and Filipinos rank at the top, comprising more than half of the total Asian population.

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The San Gabriel Valley has seen tremendous growth, with much of its local economy pumped up with the wealth of the Chinese community. Koreatown is rapidly growing as well; with its borders seemingly expanding each month, it may soon become downtown-adjacent. But what of Historic Filipinotown? "The Filipinos were never the majority population in this area," said Arguelles in the article, but "it is the center of cultural activity for the 400,000 Filipinos who live in Southern California, who converge there for events, visit the churches and institutions that continue to thrive there."

But with its location adjacent to rapidly-gentrifying Echo Park, recent neighborhood change may not reflect the needs of the community. Recently opened businesses in the area -- a gallery/marijuana dispensary, animation studio Screen Novelties, and Bar 1642 -- don't necessarily cater to the historic community, but rather to the neighbors to the north.

Looking at the following data, you can see how the Asian population in L.A. county grew in the past decade across all groups, with one exception: the Japanese. In fact, contrary to the national trend, the Japanese population has seen a steady decline since 1990. It's a trend that's reflected in the Little Tokyo community, where, as with Filipinotown, the ethnic group that gave the neighborhood its name is slowly fading and becoming the minority. It may be a sign of the times with Japan's economy in decline for decades, but with the country's renewed optimism, it remains to be seen if they will regain its foothold here in Los Angeles.

Asian Population in L.A. County Based on 2000 and 2010 Census Data:

Total Asian Population in L.A. County:
2000: 1,105,752
2010: 1,346,865

Chinese:
2000: 294,178 (26.6% of the Asian population)
2010: 393,488 (29.2%)

Filipino:
2000: 260,158 (23.5%)
2010: 322,110 (23.9%)

Korean:
2000: 186,350 (16.9%)
2010: 216,501 (16.1%)

Japanese:
2000: 111,349 (10.1%)
2010: 102,287 (7.6%)

Vietnamese:
2000: 78,102 (7.1%)
2010: 87,468 (6.5%)

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Top: Historic Filipinotown by jann_on used under a Creative Commons license.

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True, but this situation is hardly unique to Historic Filipinotown. Koreatown's population is only 33% Asian (and that statistic also includes Filipinos, Chinese, Bangladeshis and Mongolians *in addition to* Koreans). Thai Town's population is majority Latino and Armenian.

So statistically speaking, Historic Filipinotown is no less representative of its own recognized ethnicity than its other Asian enclave counterparts.

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Thank you Elson for your comment. It seems that relatively new ethnic neighborhoods – Historic Filipinotown, Thai Town, Koreatown – are designated as such not necessarily to represent the residents, but more to mark the cultural and economic significance of said ethnic group in the area. Chinatown and Little Tokyo for example, which are much older neighborhoods, still seem to retain a relatively large percentage of the ethnic group that originally made the neighborhood, though those numbers are dwindling with many moving to the San Gabriel Valley and the Gardena area, respectively.

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Great post Yosuke! It just validates what I've already seen for myself. When I first moved to LA, I wondered what was so Filipino about the area and I remember thinking maybe I missed something. Turns out, Filipino communities in LA are found in pockets all around the county. Maybe a good marker for where they are is where the nearest Jollibee or Red Ribbon is stationed :)