New census data shows a more populous and more diverse OC. How will this affect county services?
New U.S. Census data on the nature of Orange County’s roughly 3.2 million people could have implications not only for the redistribution of local electoral districts, but also for the multitude of civic institutions and agencies. governments in the region that provide essential services to residents.
Changes in the size, density, age and racial makeup of the population could all put things in perspective for agencies like the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in charge of public transportation, or the Orange. County Health Care Agency (HCA) in charge of public health. .
These changes are detailed in data from the last decennial U.S. census, released on August 12.
Data shows, for example, that Orange County ranks third in the state for the most housing units and has built more than 80,000 since 2010 – with a vacancy rate of nearly 5%, slightly higher than that of Los Angeles County. , which has built nearly 147,000 units since 2010.
Meanwhile, the state is pressuring cities to build more affordable housing, which some Orange County city officials have rejected.
Data also shows that since 2010, the county’s population has grown by nearly 177,000.
Meanwhile, the number of young people in the county has declined over the past decade, with those under 18 representing just under 21% in 2020, down from 24.5% in 2010.
The data also details the county’s ever-changing racial makeup.
The number of whites has declined by about 24% over the past decade, while other groups like Asian Americans, including mixed race, have increased by about 33%.
The county’s Hispanic and / or Latino populations also increased by around 7% and the black population increased by around 6%.
Yet communities in the Middle East and North Africa still do not have an official census designation.
Rather, they are counted as white.
What does all of this mean for Orange County utilities?
For OCTA, census data – along with data from local cities, the US Department of Finance, and the Cal State Fullerton Center for Demographic Research – “help give us a clearer picture of Orange County and its future in terms of transport, “said the spokesperson for OCTA. Eric Carpentier.
Namely, it is used to help envision a long-term regional transportation plan and network across Orange County, “the Long-Term Transportation Plan”, which aims to address “the major challenges and opportunities of transportation over the next 25 years, ”Carpenter said.
“In addition to an overall population increase of almost 10% expected during this period, we are seeing Orange County becoming increasingly densely populated and more diverse,” Carpenter said.
Census data “helps OCTA determine where transit services are provided in the context of low-income and minority communities. The updated census data will be used to assist in this analysis, ”he added.
In the grip of low ridership on public buses, the agency has cut many bus service lines and largely reallocated service to more densely populated areas like Santa Ana and Anaheim, where residents tend to rely most on bus services. public transport.
“We’re also offering more travel options, including more active transportation opportunities like biking and walking,” Carpenter said.
The data can also inform agencies like CalOptima, which administers health care plans for poor and elderly residents, as well as people with disabilities.
CalOptima spokesman Janis Rizzuto in an email Thursday noted the increase in diversity in the county according to the latest census figures.
“Considering that populations of color often face health care disparities, CalOptima strives to fill the gaps and provide equitable access to quality care for all members,” he said. she declared.
Some agencies and their leaders in the county have either told Voice of OC that their departments rely less on census data or that they have yet to see the data in detail.
Norma Lopez, director of OC’s Human Relations Commission, said in a phone call Thursday that the commission itself had not reviewed the census and likely would not review it until its next meeting.
Lopez said the census is important in helping them prepare for their annual hate crimes report.
“When we look at trends, we also look at what the makeup of Orange County’s population looks like,” Lopez said. “The census and what that population looks like here in Orange County also plays an important role in ensuring that we understand what we are looking at in regards to hate crime trends.”
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased across OC since the start of the pandemic, reflecting trends nationwide.
“There are a lot of changes happening in Orange County it seems,” she added.
Eugene Fields, media relations manager for transport corridor agencies, said in an email to Voice of OC on Friday that while the census represents a snapshot in time, future demand on the highway system in the county is based on a Southern California Association traffic model. governments (SCAG).
“The SCAG model includes long-term planning information, including forecasts for housing, employment and land use growth. Unlike the census which gives a snapshot of a moment, the planning documents of the SCAG are long-term forecasts that take into account many factors, ”he said.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee told Voice of OC he had yet to see any numbers because he was on vacation and would review them when he returned.
When asked about the data, county public health officer Dr Clayton Chau pointed to the county’s new health equity mapping platform “which integrates census data.”
“I think we already have a strong platform that will drive our concrete county-wide efforts to address population health and equity with our community partners,” Chau said in a text message Thursday.
Chau said his agency used the card to pilot COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts.
“We will use the (map) to drive our population health and equity plan. We have presented (the card) to other public and private entities, ”he said in a text message on Thursday.
When asked again if he was interested in the new census data, as it feeds into the equity map that will now need to be updated, Chau texted, “Yes. I know the demographics have changed (d) for us with an increase in the Latinx and API communities “
But not all groups are reflected separately in the census or in the health equity map.
For decades, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) across the country have been pushing for their own racial and ethnic group.
Currently, their community is classified as white in the census, although many do not identify as white, which led Palestinian MP Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) to ask the former director of the office of the census: “Do I look white to you?” Last year.
“Arab-American communities and MENA communities have lost their funding because we are counted as white even though we are not treated as white. We are not white, ”said Rashad Al-Dabbagh, founder and executive director of the Arab-American Civic Council.
More than 370,000 Arab Americans lived in the state and approximately 41,000 in Orange County in 2017.
These numbers are based on the American Community Survey and the US Census Bureau, but the Arab American Institute says the estimate is significantly lower than the actual Arab American population in California.
The absence of a MENA group has resulted in a lack of state data on the impact of the coronavirus on the Arab and Middle Eastern community in Orange County.
[ Read: Foggy Picture of the Pandemic’s Impact on Some of OC’s Racial, Ethnic Groups Stems from Lack of State Data ]
OC assistant health worker Dr Regina Chinsio-Kwong told a press conference on Wednesday that there were only a few selected ethnicities to identify when trying to get a Covid test or a vaccination.
“We don’t have that clarity on this community because of the way the questions are asked with demographics,” she said.
The racial categories used are determined by the census.
Last year, Tlaib cited health research as one of the reasons the MENA category was needed. In his state of Michigan, the city of Dearborn – which has one of the largest Arab populations in the country – is 90% white, according to the census.
“Which is completely wrong, because the majority of the population is Arab, but Arabs are considered white, which means a loss of funding for our communities,” Al-Dabbagh said.
Al-Dabbagh said without a Middle East and North Africa category in the census, organizations serving this community would lack the funding as well as the institutional support needed to do their work.
“We wouldn’t have precise data to analyze health problems, disparities, etc. Inclusion of the MENA category would allow them to identify the social conditions of the entire MENA and Arab American community in the data, ”he said.
Al-Dabbagh said better data collection is needed to more effectively monitor hate crimes, discrimination and civil rights violations, as well as to help Arab-owned businesses secure federal grants and loans.
Hosam Elattar is a member of Voice of OC Reporting. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.