Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series of articles written this fall by students in the journalism program at California State University, Sacramento. They are being taught by Phillip Reese, a Sacramento Bee staff reporter and an associate professor at CSUS. For more information about the CSUS journalism program, visit facebook.com/SacStateJournalism.
Elk Grove’s Asian population grew by 47% over the last decade and became the largest racial group in the city, according to new 2020 U.S. Census data.
Asians grew from 40,261 residents in 2010 to 58,982 residents in 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.
This growth caused Asian Americans to overtake Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites to represent a plurality at nearly 33% of the city’s population.
Local realtors said the growth shows no signs of stopping.
“I believe it will continue because of the diversity Elk Grove has to offer,” said Joy Yip, an Elk Grove realtor and VP of Community Affairs for OCA Sacramento, a branch of the national group Asian Pacific American Advocates.
She said that Asian residents tend to look for space, home size, school ratings, and safety when moving into a neighborhood.
“They’re moving based on their lifestyles and their work,” Yip said.
Brandon Her, a 25-year-old teacher at Natomas Charter Star Academy, said his family moved from south Sacramento to Elk Grove for a larger house and a safer neighborhood 19 years ago.
“I wouldn’t say it’s unsafe,” Her said of south Sacramento. “But it’s definitely not a place I’d go and walk around at night by myself.”
Her, who is Hmong, attended Edna Batey Elementary School when he was a child. He said his classes would have only two or three other Asians.
Now, over 35% of students enrolled at Batey in the 2020-2021 school year were Asian, according to California Department of Education data.
Many of Elk Grove’s new residents are Filipino. Filipino Americans make up the largest Asian ethnic group in Elk Grove at more than 14,000 residents in 2019, according to the latest available American Community Survey data.
“Filipinos have lived in Sacramento County for a long time,” said Vince Sales, a realtor in Elk Grove. “One of the oldest Filipino American organizations in the county started in 1929, so there’s a strong network of Filipinos who settled here.”
Many Filipinos work in healthcare as nurses and doctors, Sales said. Those jobs pay relatively well and the cost of living in Elk Grove is lower than in much of California.
Sales said that Filipinos see Elk Grove as an alternative to the Bay Area since housing is more affordable.
The city’s high Asian population stands in contrast to Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen’s community when she moved to Lodi from India at age 4.
“When your parents look different than all the other parents, you eat different food, they speak a different language, I definitely felt like an outsider,” she said.
Singh-Allen said there were no Indians in her community other than her immediate family and her aunt who sponsored her and her family to come to the United States. At the time, Lodi did not have many Asians, she recalled.
Singh-Allen is now the first directly elected Sikh American mayor in the United States after she was elected last year. Sikh Americans first emigrated predominantly from the state of Punjab in India and have been in California for more than 100 years, she said.
The Indian community grew more than most other groups in Elk Grove, increasing from nearly 4,000 people in 2010 to roughly 7,000 in 2019, according to American Community Survey data.
The city of Elk Grove is increasing outreach efforts to serve its diverse population and all of its community members.
The Elk Grove COVID-19 Business Recovery Grant Program, which is funded by $23 million from the American Rescue Plan, will provide grant money to Elk Grove businesses. Singh-Allen said she is approaching business owners in the city and passing out flyers with information on how to apply for the grants.
The flyers contain information in English, Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
“It’s one thing to say we’re the most diverse; what do you do with that diversity?” Singh-Allen said. “You want to be able to celebrate it and be inclusive about it.”