TIP Strategies is a privately held Austin-based economic development consulting firm committed to providing quality solutions for public and private‑sector clients.
This blog is dedicated to exploring new data and trends in economic development.
By: Irene Chapple
(CNN) — The global talent war is heating up as baby boomers begin their mass exodus from the workforce. But a new report reveals employers are not prepared for the new generation of emotionally intelligent, ethnically diverse workers.
“After the Baby Boomers, The Next Generation of Leadership” reveals what the next two decades of the global workforce will look like, as those born after the war make way for the so-called X and Y generations.
Organizations that fail to prepare for the evolution of the workforce “do so at their peril,” the report, from executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson and Cass Business School, found.
The report drew on surveys of 100 senior executives across 19 countries, and 24 nationalities, between 2010 and 2012.
Cliff Oswick,deputy dean of Cass Business School, said the “rock star” approach to chief executive leadership which has been prevalent in recent years will no longer work.
Oswick, speaking during the report’s launch in London Wednesday, pointed to different types of corporate structures, such as citizen-centric and servant leadership, as models for the future.
According to the report, the rise of women into positions of power will create a “feminization” of leadership which will be reflected in the increasing importance of emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility.
The importance of the BRIC nations and other emerging markets will also ensure more culturally diverse workers are employed around the world.
This, the report found, will mean knowledge of other languages will become more important. However, English is cementing itself as the language of business, with executives regarding fluency for non-native speakers more important than native speakers speaking a foreign language.
According to Oswick, the demands of the X and Y generations are aligned to the skill-set of female leadership styles. However he noted high-flying corporate women of today’s world are not necessarily showing more feminine attributes, such as emotional intelligence and aversion to risk.
Oswick said the shift in leadership styles that generations X and Y will bring was yet to flow through to workplaces. Ingrained discrimination against woman in remained an issue, he added.
The generational change mean executives seek a new crop of leaders who can inspire others “across geographic and age barriers,” and who were comfortable with uncertainty as well as being curious, educated, well read and traveled.
The report noted: “This list makes sense: emotional intelligence and flexibility are essential skills in an environment where generations, cultures and gender are all in flux.”
However, the new generation is also focused on work and life balance, rather than just corporate progression. This attitude can be seen particularly with working women, who want to be intellectually stimulated and valued as part of a team, the report found. This desire was more prevalent than pushing through a perceived glass ceiling.
One of the interviewees noted: “In general we are nurturing individuals, while the baby boomers are more generalists.”
The biggest single challenge will be recruitment, as the world’s population ages and companies seek specialists in fields such as technology.
However, the report reveals only 41% of the respondents believe organizations are ready for the changes the influx of X and Y generation leaders will bring to the workforce.
One respondent said the company was “actively trying to get in front of the change and lead.” However, “I find it difficult to say that we are ready. I doubt many organizations are.”
The report suggests organizations should ease the transition by allowing senior executives to use the last years of their career to mentor up-and-coming leaders. Respondents were split on whether a move away from full executive responsibilities should mean a reduction in pay.
Organizations should also adapt to the different mind-sets of the new generations, who looks for a work and life balance and the opportunity to work smarter rather than harder. Flattening the organizational structure and ensuring companies are culturally aware will be vital, the report said.
By William Fulton
Gov. Rick Perry often touts Texas’ economic success, which he attributes to lower taxes and fewer regulations than cash-strapped California. But if Texas is so compelling, why did Perry go to California looking for new companies?
Not long ago Gov. Rick Perry came poaching on my turf. Well, not mine, exactly, but close: He came to Oxnard, Calif., the town next door to the one I’ve lived in for 25 years, in hopes of luring one of our best local employers off to Texas.
I’m not sure how Perry targeted Haas Automation, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of precision machining equipment. Admittedly, he wasn’t trying to lure the whole company; he just wanted to attract future expansion. Still, it was a rather brazen move. Although Haas and its Oxnard-based founder have had a lot of ups and downs over the years, the company remains large, successful and very civic-minded. Haas pays well and is one of the most philanthropic companies in Ventura County.
Predictably, California Gov. Jerry Brown reacted with hostility. So did many local residents, who staged demonstrations in support of Haas outside the company’s main plant. It remains to be seen whether Perry will lure all or part of Haas to Texas. But the incident brought the contrast between two of our largest states by GDP into stark relief. Is there really a “Texas miracle” California can learn from? And if Texas is so compelling, why did Perry have to come to California with a fishing rod looking for new companies?
Over the past five or so years, as California’s struggled to remain solvent and create jobs, Texas has been justifiably proud of its job creation record. In a sluggish economy, Texas has created more jobs than anybody else, and Perry has been more than willing to take credit for it by citing Texas’ low taxes and light regulatory touch, especially in comparison to California. Meanwhile, I’ve attended innumerable meetings in Los Angeles where economic development types have wrung their hands over California’s troubles, wishing out loud that the state could return to a golden era when taxes were low, regulation was light, the government was small and jobs were plentiful.
Yet there’s also the question of what kind of economy you want to create. Texas’ job creation machine has performed amazingly well. But it’s been criticized for creating low-paying jobs. And Texas’ most successful job creation machine, Austin, is the most California-like city in the state, a place that embraces California creativity and weirdness so enthusiastically that the rest of the state routinely rejects it as being profoundly un-Texan.
California hasn’t been anybody’s model of economic development lately. Though the population is still growing, the state has been shedding middle-class jobs and middle-class families for two decades. Most of the jobs created in the state are also low paying; and, of course, California’s own state government wallowed in insolvency for a decade until voters approved Brown’s tax increase last fall, which has finally balanced the budget. Through it all, California has managed to maintain a big lead in certain high-growth, high-performing sectors, principally technology and entertainment.
In other words, Texas isn’t doing as well as you might think and California isn’t doing as badly as you might think. As our national politics devolve ever more deeply into a war between red and blue states, it’s important to understand the difference between red-blue political rhetoric and the on-the-ground reality of economic development.
Red-state politicians like Perry often claim that low taxes and light regulation are key to their economic success. In fact, however, their economic development experts know this isn’t the whole story. Red-state economic development has been successful in large part because leaders have figured out how to combine the low-tax/low-regulation environment with financial incentives, the power of research institutions and the construction of critical infrastructure. Even if Texas had no taxes or regulation, Austin wouldn’t be a high-tech powerhouse if it weren’t for significant state investments in the University of Texas.
Meanwhile, blue-state politicians often seem to believe that the tax and regulatory environment doesn’t matter at all, which isn’t exactly true, either. States like California can hang on to the desirable high-value-added parts of the economy — e.g., Google and Facebook — through a combination of quality of life and a dense concentration of entrepreneurship, venture capital and a highly skilled labor pool. But they can’t hang on to the middle class without sensible tax and regulatory policies. The current battle in California over the cost of public-sector pensions is a good example of how blue-state politics often divides working- and middle-class folks who have it good (public-sector employees in this case) and those who don’t (private-sector folks who are leaving the state).
There’s a certain short-term logic to Perry’s visit to Oxnard. California companies like Haas must expand, and that’s hard to do locally for various reasons. But just because California is down doesn’t mean it’s out. U.S. history is filled with examples of regional economies that looked dead when traditional industries left — Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle — but turned things around in a generation. California may have made the mistake of “sitting on a lead” economically for too long. But Texas shouldn’t make the same mistake, either. In economic development, smugness is your biggest enemy.
By: Hannah Seligson
Via: The New York Times
JASMINE GAO, who is 19, just wasn’t the classroom type. So instead of languishing in college, she dropped out after her freshman year.
Ms. Gao decided that she didn’t want to continue studying at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. At first she considered transferring to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, but she changed her mind when she saw that her tuition bill would be around $44,000 a year, with only a small amount of financial aid available. “I didn’t want to come out of college with $200,000 in debt and have to spend 10 years paying it off,” she said.
Yet she still sought a way to nurture her interest in technology. A year later, Ms. Gao holds the title of data strategist at Bitly, the URL-shortening service based in New York.
How did she catapult from dropping out of college to landing a plum job? She became an apprentice to Hilary Mason, chief data scientist at Bitly, through a new two-year program called Enstitute. It teaches skills in fields like information technology, computer programming and app building via on-the-job experience. Enstitute seeks to challenge the conventional wisdom that top professional jobs always require a bachelor’s degree — at least for a small group of the young, digital elite.
“Our long-term vision is that this becomes an acceptable alternative to college,” says Kane Sarhan, one of Enstitute’s founders. “Our big recruitment effort is at high schools and universities. We are targeting people who are not interested in going to school, school is not the right fit for them, or they can’t afford school.”
The Enstitute concept taps into a larger cultural conversation about the value of college — a debate that has heated up in the last few years. In important ways, the value is indisputable. The wage gap between college graduates and those with just a high school degree is vast: in 2010, median earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree were more than 50 percent higher than for those with only a high school diploma, according to the Department of Education.
But college is expensive, and becoming more so — between 2000 and 2011, tuition rose 42 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — and students fear being saddled by debt in a bleak job market. (Students from the class of 2011 who took out loans graduated with an average debt of $26,000.) And some employers complain that many colleges don’t teach the kinds of technical skills they want in entry-level hires.
Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor, upped the ante to this argument when he started the Thiel Fellowship, which pays a no-strings-attached grant of $100,000 for young people not to attend college and to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams instead.
Enstitute doesn’t offer anything like $100,000 to its apprentices. Still, it is aimed at intelligent, ambitious and entrepreneurial types — people like Ms. Gao, who participated in the Technovation Challenge, a nine-week program and competition for high school girls to design a mobile app prototype at Google in New York.
“If I had known at 19 what Jasmine knows, I would be ruling the world,” says Ms. Mason, who is 34.
The concept is not a perfect model by any stretch. For one thing, a college degree is still the assumed prerequisite of most any professional job. But more people seem interested in testing alternatives.
“We need educational research and development for a new time,” says Tony Wagner, an innovation education fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and the author of “Creating Innovators.”
“I have no idea whether Enstitute is going to be successful,” he adds. The only way to find out, he says, would be to follow the apprentices over time after the program and compare them with their college-educated peers. “Yes, you get exposed to a lot of great things by going to a liberal arts school,” Mr. Wagner says, “but you have to look at the cost-benefit analysis.”
MR. SARHAN and his co-founder, Shaila Ittycheria, met when they worked at LocalResponse, a social media company in New York. They selected this year’s first class of fellows — 11 in all — from a national pool of 500 applicants ranging in age from 18 to 24.
Ms. Ittycheria, 31, and Mr. Sarhan, 26, call the program “learning by doing.” Students train under a master, in the way that many trade professions have operated for centuries. “It’s a level of experience that an intern never sees,” Ms. Ittycheria says.
For participating companies, the program offers cheap, talented labor for a much longer period than a typical internship. But the fellows are betting that their minimal wages will turn into full-time jobs once they complete the program — perhaps even at the very company where they apprenticed.
Nine of the fellows have attended at least one year of college, and three are college graduates. Most say they do not plan to return to school. But what will the apprentices miss if they forgo the four-year period of intellectual exploration and cultural knowledge that college is meant to provide? Defenders of higher education argue that college students gain important knowledge as well as critical-thinking skills that are crucial to a meaningful life and career.
The Enstitute’s founders contend that their program does teach critical thinking, but in different ways. “They are not debating Chaucer; they are debating product features,” says Mr. Sarhan, who graduated from Pace University. “But it’s the same idea of how do I write down and communicate an argument.”
Enstitute does offer a semiformal curriculum, requiring eight hours a week on topics like finance, branding, computer programming and graphic design, as well as English, sociology, and history, the content of which comes largely from online courses. The fellows also receive writing assignments every six weeks; outside academics and experts edit and review the work for writing style and grammar. Many fellows choose a less technical track for their course work and study subjects like Japanese culture or the poetry of Keats.
Based on their living arrangements, it would be easy to mistake the fellows for traditional college students. They share a large loft space at 11 Stone Street, near the southern tip of Manhattan. There are two to four beds to a room and three shared bathrooms, and the fellows share cleaning duties.
Most socializing takes place in a sparsely decorated common space, and around a large banquet-type table. Dinners are usually prepared and eaten communally. Twice a week, established entrepreneurs come to dinner, give an informal talk and take questions.
Perhaps the only giveaway that this isn’t a college dorm is that by Friday night, the apprentices are often too tired to go out. Full-time work is exhausting.
Many of the fellows say they work upward of 40 hours a week. There is no overtime; the compensation package is a stipend, usually around $800 a month, with housing and food fully subsidized by Enstitute — a benefit being extended only to the program’s first class. Starting this September, the new batch of fellows will have to pay $1,500 in annual tuition, and their room and board will not be covered. Stipends, however, will be around $1,600 a month — and they will be paid overtime. The entrepreneurs cite various reasons for agreeing to take on an apprentice. “It’s an awesome value at a nominal cost,” says Ben Lerer, 31, a co-founder of the Thrillist Media Group, a digital media site geared toward men; its apprentice is Ben Darr, 20. “We would hire Ben full time today,” says Mr. Lerer, who treats Mr. Darr to twice-weekly boxing sessions. (Enstitute strongly discourages employers from hiring the apprentice before the program is over.)
Having an apprentice for a two years has other advantages for a business. “It takes three to four months before you trust an intern and before they are up to speed, and then the internship is over,” Mr. Lerer says.
Ms. Mason, at Bitly, agreed to participate in the program because she has an intellectual interest in new models of education. “I moved from academia into start-ups, and I wish I had had a way to learn what I needed to be useful at a company,” says Ms. Mason, a former computer science professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.
Beyond the fellows’ work, companies are eager to tap into the mind-set of 18- to 24-year-olds, a coveted demographic group.
Kwame Henderson, 23, an apprentice at the mobile software company Tracks, is its head of quality assurance and manages a product plan, which involves ensuring that the app works properly for users across all their devices.
“Kwame put together a whole presentation of how people in college would use Tracks, says the company’s founder, Vic Singh, 36. “He makes copy sound more casual, and that helps move the needle with the younger audience.”
(Unlike most of the fellows, Mr. Henderson is a college graduate; he received a bachelor’s degree in marketing, with a minor in information technology, from Seton Hall in 2011. He enrolled in Enstitute as an alternative to attending an M.B.A. program, which would have cost $50,000 a year.)
THE apprenticeships in this class focus on tech start-ups. For the next class, Enstitute will offer apprenticeships in digital advertising and nonprofit areas, placing fellows at places like The New Republic, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and the nonprofit Charity: Water.
Enstitute says it has raised around $300,000 in donations in the last year, and it plans to expand to a couple of more cities by fall 2014. Its founders want the nonprofit Enstitute to become a brand name like that of a top-flight university. But instead of getting a paper diploma, the fellows will graduate with a portfolio of skills they’ve acquired, business development deals they’ve closed, marketing materials they’ve created and products they’ve built, in addition to 5 to 10 recommendations.
When the first Enstitute graduates enter the job market, some hiring managers might view the program skeptically, says John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who serves as a hiring consultant for technology companies. Many hiring managers still place a high premium on a college degree and will not even consider an applicant without one, he says.
But many companies are having trouble filling positions requiring precisely the kind of knowledge that the apprentices are learning. Mr. Henderson plans to leave Tracks knowing how to ensure that a mobile app is ready for public release. Mr. Darr learned how to wireframe, a way of making prototypes for screen-based products. Ms. Gao, who wants to run her own company, is learning Python, a coding language. Samman Chaudhary, 24, who wants to work at a business incubator, will have experience in evaluating business plans; she recently judged a venture capital investment competition at the Stern School of Business of New York University.
“It’s a race for top talent, and you would be crazy to ignore talent that is demonstrating execution and learning through alternative channels,” says Jason Madhosingh, an Enstitute board member and director of innovation and digital partnerships at American Express, a role in which he makes hiring decisions.
For many companies in technology hubs like Silicon Valley, San Francisco and New York, though, “this is exactly the kind of hire they are looking for,” Mr. Sullivan says. “Code speaks louder than words there.”
By: Catherine Rampell
Via: The New York Times
Is college worth it? Given the growing price tag and the frequent anecdotes about jobless graduates stuck in their parents’ basements, many have started to question the value of a college degree. But the evidence suggests college graduates have suffered through the recession and lackluster recovery with remarkable resilience.
The unemployment rate for college graduates in April was a mere 3.9 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for the work force as a whole, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Even when the jobless rate for college graduates was at its very worst in this business cycle, in November 2010, it was still just 5.1 percent. That is close to the jobless rate the rest of the work force experiences when the economy is good.
Among all segments of workers sorted by educational attainment, college graduates are the only group that has more people employed today than when the recession started.
The number of college-educated workers with jobs has risen by 9.1 percent since the beginning of the recession. Those with a high school diploma and no further education are practically a mirror image, with employment down 9 percent on net. For workers without even a high school diploma, employment levels have fallen 14.1 percent.
But just because college graduates have jobs does not mean they all have “good” jobs.
There is ample evidence that employers are hiring college-educated workers for jobs that do not actually require college-level skills — positions like receptionists, file clerks, waitresses, car rental agents and so on.
“High-skilled people can take the jobs of middle-skilled people, and middle-skilled people can take jobs of low-skilled people,” said Justin Wolfers, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. “And low-skilled people are out of luck.”
In some cases, employers are specifically requiring four-year degrees for jobs that previously did not need them, since companies realize that in a relatively poor job market college graduates will be willing to take whatever they can find.
That has left those who have spent some time in college but have not received a bachelor’s degree to scramble for what is left. Employment for them fell during the recession and is now back to exactly where it began. There were 34,992,000 workers with some college employed in December 2007, and there are 34,992,000 today.
In other words, workers with four-year degrees have gobbled up all of the net job gains. In fact, there are more employed college graduates today than employed high school graduates and high school dropouts put together.
It is worth noting, too, that even young college graduates are finding jobs, based on the most recent data on this subgroup. In 2011, the unemployment rate for people in their 20s with at least a bachelor’s degree was 5.7 percent. For those with only a high school diploma or a G.E.D., it was nearly three times as high, at 16.2 percent.
Americans have gotten the message that college pays off in the job market. College degrees are much more common today than they were in the past. In April, about 32 percent of the civilian, noninstitutional population over 25 — that is, the group of people who are not inmates of penal and mental facilities or residents of homes for the disabled or aged and who are not on active military duty — had a college degree.
Twenty years ago, the share was 22 percent. Given the changing norms for what degree of educational training is expected of working Americans, employers might assume those who do not have a four-year degree are less ambitious or less capable, regardless of their actual ability.
These forces might help explain why there is so much growth in employment among college graduates despite the fact that the bulk of the jobs created in the last few years have been low-wage and low-skilled, according to a report last August from the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group. Today nearly one in 13 jobs is in food services, for example, a record share.
Clearly, positions in retail and food services are not the best use of the hard-earned skills of college-educated workers, who have gone to great expense to obtain their sheepskins. Student loan borrowers graduate with an average debt of $27,000, a total that is likely to grow in the future.
But nearly all of those graduates are at least finding work and income of some kind, unlike a much larger share of their less educated peers. And as the economy improves, college graduates will be better situated to find promotions to jobs that do use their more advanced skills and that pay better wages, economists say.
The median weekly earnings of college-educated, full-time workers — like those for their counterparts with less education — have dipped in recent years. In 2012, the weekly median was $1,141, compared with $1,163 in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. The premium they earn for having that college degree is still high, though.
In 2012, the typical full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree earned 79 percent more than a similar full-time worker with no more than a high school diploma. For comparison, 20 years earlier the premium was 73 percent, and 30 years earlier it was 48 percent.
And since a higher percentage of college graduates than high school graduates are employed in full-time work, these figures actually understate the increase in the total earnings premium from college completion, said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent research organization.
So, despite the painful upfront cost, the return on investment on a college degree remains high. An analysis from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington estimated that the benefits of a four-year college degree were equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent a year, even after factoring in the earnings students forgo while in school.
“This is more than double the average return to stock market investments since 1950,” the report said, “and more than five times the returns to corporate bonds, gold, long-term government bonds, or homeownership.”
By: Mike Maciag
Click for interactive map with data for each county.
Not many people live in rural Renville County, Minn., home to a scattering of farming communities along the Minnesota River. Far removed from any sprawling metropolis, its population has gradually dwindled for decades.
County Commissioner Bob Fox, like other officials in rural areas, is accustomed to seeing young adults move away. As families continue to leave for growing metropolitan areas, and as rural towns age, he wants to ensure the county still thrives. “We hope to provide opportunities for people that like this way of life,” he says.
Most U.S. counties are rural, and recent Census estimates indicate the majority of them are losing population as Americans migrate to cities and suburbs. Two-thirds of counties that the Census considers majority-rural based on population density lost residents last year. By contrast, only 31 percent of more urban counties registered population declines.
This divide is most apparent across the Great Plains and rural Appalachia, which experienced some of the largest rural population losses in recent years, along with Michigan and pockets of the upper Midwest. The Census Bureau estimates Renville County’s population dropped 2 percent since 2010 to about 15,400.
Part of this stems from Americans flocking to urban centers. But much of rural America’s shrinking population has to do with natural decreases, says Ken Johnson, a senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Rural counties are home to older white residents whose fertility rates are lower than other demographic groups. Many counties reached a tipping point in 2012 when annual deaths surpassed births. In all, 1,135 counties recorded a natural decrease — the most in U.S. history. “With the coming of the recession, the tipping point was accelerated because birth rates dropped,” Johnson says. And now that natural decreases started, they’ll likely continue in these areas for years.
But it’s not all bad news for rural America. While many areas took their hits during the Great Recession, agriculture largely sustained rural communities and newer industries, such as organic foods, cropped up. “When you look at the economic output of these counties, they’re actually growing,” says Matt Chase, the National Association of Counties’ executive director.
However, there just aren’t as many jobs as before in many farming communities. The mechanization of commodity agriculture — a major driver of rural economies — pushed down the number of available jobs. Accordingly, most rural counties will find it difficult to reverse years of population declines, but this doesn’t mean they can’t improve their quality of life.
Chase says broadband and access to airports are top priorities for rural counties. Well maintained roads and bridges are also essential for businesses wanting to curb transportation costs. But these investments often prove difficult for rural local governments, Chase says, with their aging populations and declining tax bases.
In Minnesota, Fox is working on a project to lay the foundation for a fiber network linking residents to high-speed Internet. Renville County also plans to expand a freight rail line and build a solid waste transfer center, further boosting the region’s economy. For each project, officials are working with other jurisdictions or private companies to achieve results that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. “It’s using taxpayers’ money wisely and producing better results by partnering with your neighbors,” Fox says.
This type of collaboration is needed if rural communities are to grow, says Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute. Instead of thinking about two- or three-county areas, governments must set policies encompassing much larger regions — rural areas must better align themselves with nearby urban hubs and vice versa. “We need to rethink how we govern,” Fluharty says. “The old feudal silos have to go away.” Whether it’s economic clusters, distributed food and water systems, or tax sharing, there are ample opportunities for regional partnerships.
Although rare, some rural counties have seen their population climb. Loudoun County, Va., for example, experienced rapid population gains with its proximity to Washington, D.C., expanding from about 57,000 residents in 1980 to more than 300,000 today. In recent years, some of the fastest growing rural areas can be found in communities wedged between Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C. Neighboring Johnston and Harnett counties added the most residents of any majority-rural county in the U.S. since 2010, according to Census estimates.
Some rural counties boasting recreational opportunities, such as ski resorts in the West, have also fared well. Other regions benefited from a natural gas boom or recent manufacturing growth.
It’s for these reasons that rural counties can’t all be treated the same — both their demographics and economies vary greatly, says Fluharty. “There are amazing dynamics going on from central cities to remote rural areas.”
By: Jennifer Medina
Via: The New York Times
SAN MARINO, Calif. — Beneath the palm trees that line Huntington Drive, named for the railroad magnate who founded this Southern California city, hang signs to honor families who have helped sponsor the centennial celebration here this year. There are names like Dryden, Crowley and Telleen, families that have lived here for generations. But there are newer names as well: Sun, Koo and Shi.
A generation ago, whites made up roughly two-thirds of the population in this rarefied Los Angeles suburb, where most of the homes are worth well over $1 million. But Asians now make up over half of the population in San Marino, which has long attracted some of the region’s wealthiest families and was once home to the John Birch Society’s Western headquarters.
The transformation illustrates a drastic shift in California immigration trends over the last decade, one that can easily be seen all over the area: more than twice as many immigrants to the nation’s most populous state now come from Asia than from Latin America.
And the change here is just one example of the ways immigration is remaking America, with the political, economic and cultural ramifications playing out in a variety of ways. The number of Latinos has more than doubled in many Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, creating new tensions. Asian populations are booming in New Jersey, and Latino immigrants are reviving small towns in the Midwest.
Much of the current immigration debate in Congress has focused on Hispanics, and California has for decades been viewed as the focal point of that migration. But in cities in the San Gabriel Valley — as well as in Orange County and in Silicon Valley in Northern California — Asian immigrants have become a dominant cultural force in places that were once largely white or Hispanic.
“We are really looking at a different era here,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California who has studied census data. “There are astounding changes in working-class towns and old, established, wealthy cities. It is not confined to one place.”
Asians have become a majority in more than half a dozen cities in the San Gabriel Valley in the last decade, creating a region of Asian-dominated suburbs that stretches for nearly 30 miles east of Los Angeles. In the shopping centers, Chinese-language characters are on nearly every storefront, visible from the freeways that cut through the area.
Monterey Park, a middle-class city that began attracting Asian immigrants more than a generation ago, is still widely seen as the area’s center and retail hub. But as Asians have continued to arrive in Southern California, they have moved into some of the most exclusive cities in Los Angeles County, making up more than 60 percent of the population in San Gabriel and Walnut, along the county’s eastern edge.
Many of the immigrants come here from China and Taiwan, where they were part of a highly educated and affluent population. They have eagerly bought property in places like San Marino, where the median income is nearly double that of Beverly Hills and is home to one of the highest-performing school districts in the state. The local library now offers story time in Mandarin.
But the wealth is not uniform, and there are pockets of poverty in several of the area’s working-class suburbs, particularly in Vietnamese and Filipino communities.
“This is kind of ground zero for a new immigrant America,” said Daniel Ichinose, a demographer at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “You have people speaking Mandarin and Vietnamese and Spanish all living together and facing many common challenges.”
The children of the immigrants who began transforming the area a generation ago are beginning to come of age, becoming cheerleaders for the region, running for political office and creating businesses that cater to a distinctly American-born audience.
There are countless stores that display signs in Mandarin, sell restaurant supplies and Chinese herbs, or advertise acupuncture or brokerage services. But perhaps the most common storefront is the boba tea shop, where young patrons spend hours drinking cold milk tea with jellylike tapioca balls. Nearly every one of the region’s hundreds of strip malls boasts a cafe — or even two — offering a dizzying number of variations on the sweet drink.
Andrew and David Fung, who grew up in Seattle, were surprised to see the pervasiveness of Chinese and Taiwanese culture in the San Gabriel Valley.
After moving to the area a couple of years ago to try to break into the entertainment industry, the Fung brothers created several hip-hop videos celebrating what they termed the “boba life,” to embrace the area where, as their lyrics explain, “kids drink more milk tea than liquor.” The videos became so wildly popular on the Internet that local leaders began showing them in official meetings.
“People here think it’s normal, hanging out to drink boba all day long, but this culture doesn’t exist everywhere, and we’re trying to tell them to embrace it, to own it,” said David Fung, 26. “We’ve got to teach ourselves to be proud of who we are and tell others about it.”
The Fung brothers have helped create a local ethnic pride that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, said Oliver Wang, a professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach, who grew up in San Marino in the 1980s and returned to the area three years ago. The area could become central to Asian-American identity in the region in the way East Los Angeles is to Latinos or South Los Angeles is to African-Americans, he said.
“It wasn’t cool to be Chinese or cool to be Asian,” he said. “The idea that the San Gabriel Valley could be the locus of some kind of cultural movement or identity is fascinating. They are asserting cultural capital to create Asian-American identity that wasn’t there before, and one that is homegrown, not imported from Taiwan or Hong Kong.”
But the growth has not come without some backlash. While there is rarely overt tension in the area these days, there is a history of clashes over English-only ordinances, and some people still speak in hushed tones about Chinese immigrants taking over the region.
More recently, there have been renewed complaints of “maternity tourism,” a cottage industry that brings Chinese women here to give birth so their children can have American citizenship. Residents, including immigrants, have complained to officials about large houses that host dozens of pregnant women at a time.
Jay Chen, 35, a member of the Hacienda Heights school board in the San Gabriel Valley, recalled a 2010 controversy over a plan to create a Chinese-language class at a local middle school. Last year, when Mr. Chen challenged a longtime Republican congressman, Ed Royce, to represent a newly drawn district, he received a handful of messages using anti-Asian slurs.
“There’s still this conservative element that said teaching Chinese meant you were teaching communism,” said Mr. Chen, who lost the race. “Meanwhile, people are fighting to get into our district so their children — of whatever ethnicity — can take these classes.”
Food often draws outsiders to the region, which is packed with mom-and-pop restaurants where a feast can cost less than $20.
Last summer, Jonny Hwang, 32, a son of Taiwanese immigrants, created the 626 Night Market. (Its name is play on the region’s area code.) At the first event, with dozens of local food vendors, more than 15,000 people clogged the streets to get in. “It surprised everyone,” Mr. Hwang said. “All of the sudden we had a community and something that even other people wanted.”