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Census: San Francisco Residents Are Oldest in Bay Area

New figures also show most Bay Area Hispanics are Mexican, Japanese population is on the decline

Of the Bay Area's large cities, San Francisco's residents are the oldest, while Berkeley's are the youngest. San Franciscans are the most likely to rent, while Antioch's residents are the most likely to own. Daly City has the most residents per home.

Also, people of Chinese and Indian descent are responsible for nearly half of the phenomenal growth in the Bay Area's Asian community over the past decade. Three-quarters of Bay Area Hispanics are of Mexican heritage.

These are some of the findings of a fascinating new report from the U.S. Census Bureau providing details on ethnicity and household composition. It's the second of many releases expected this year as the agency rolls out the results of the 2010 census piece by piece.

Here are some of the highlights:

Most Bay Area Hispanics Are Mexican

Nearly 75 percent of the Bay Area's 1.7 million Hispanics are of Mexican heritage, with Mexicans accounting for nearly all of the growth in the region's Hispanic population over the last 10 years.

According to the census, the Bay Area's Hispanic population has gone up by 366,000 since the year 2000. Of those new residents, 310,000 were of Mexican origin.

That trend was even true in San Francisco, which has traditionally been home to the region's Central and South American communities. 

"The Mission was the non-Mexican hub of Latino California," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute in Los Angeles. But gentrification has changed that.

During the last 10 years, San Francisco's Hispanic population grew by 12,000, nearly all of them Mexican. "The migrant paths from Central America no longer lead to San Francisco," Gonzalez said. "They lead to Los Angeles, Houston, D.C. and New York."

Asian Groups’ ‘Suburban Dispersal’

The census also shows that the tremendous growth in the South Bay's Asian population over the last decade has fundamentally changed the ethnic and demographic makeup of the Bay Area's Asian community. 

The number of Asians living in Santa Clara County increased by 140,000 over the past decade to 571,000, with more than 320,000 Asians living in San Jose alone (that's 40,000 more than the number of Asians in San Francisco.)

"The census reflects the movement of Asians out of core urban enclaves to suburban dispersal, in part because of a desire for homes or better educational opportunities for their kids," said Michael Omi, an ethnic studies professor at UC Berkeley.

San Francisco is still home to the Bay Area's largest Chinese population, the census figures show, but San Jose has more Indian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese and Korean residents.

Chinese and Indian Growth, Japanese Decline

Chinese and Asian Indian residents were responsible for nearly half of the Bay Area's Asian community's phenomenal growth over the past decade. The region's Chinese population increased by 120,000, while the South Asian population nearly doubled — from 145,000 in 2000 to 245,000 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area's Japanese population declined by 8 percent to 68,000.

Omi, of UC Berkeley, said those numbers represent a near total reversal from 40 years ago, when "Japanese were the largest Asian ethnic group in the whole country."

In recent decades, however, America's Japanese population has fallen "because there is not a significant immigrant flow from Japan."

But Omi said that may change in the decade to come because of continued economic difficulties stemming from Japan's recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

San Franciscans Oldest, Berkeley Residents Youngest

The 2010 census shows San Francisco is the oldest major city in the Bay Area. The average San Franciscan is 38.5, according to the census, with about 14 percent of city residents over 65.

"San Francisco has one of the lowest percentages of children of any major American city," said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

"There are hipsters and yuppies, but when they have children, they tend to move out of the city and look for a place where they can afford to buy a single-family, detached house with a yard," said Johnson.

Berkeley, with its large student population, has the lowest median age of any Bay Area city. The next youngest cities — Hayward, Fairfield and Antioch — are all relatively affordable suburbs with an abundance of single-family homes.

Daly City Households Are Biggest

The average Daly City household has 3.23 residents, the most of any of the Bay Area's 15 largest cities. 

The northern San Mateo County city has the region's highest percentage of Asians (58 percent) — the majority of them Filipino.

"Daly City has traditionally had one of the highest percentages of foreign-born residents," Johnson of the PPIC said, "and immigrants tend to be more likely to live in extended-family households."

Statewide, the number of families living in multigenerational households increased by 27 percent, the census showed — driven mostly by a large influx of Hispanic and Asian residents.

Berkeley, with its large proportion of students, has the smallest average household size at 2.1 residents.

Rental vs. Ownership

It will not surprise many readers to learn that San Francisco has the highest percentage of renters in the Bay Area, 64 percent, followed by Berkeley and Oakland where 59 percent of homes are rentals.

Among the Bay Area's 15 largest cities, Antioch had the highest percentage of homeowners, 64 percent, followed by Fremont, Concord, Fairfield and Vallejo.

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